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Kogi communities want FG to suspend Dangote coalmine firm over EIA scam
TWO communities in Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi State, Onupa and Awoakpali have called on the Federal Government to shut down a coalmine firm operating in their domain due to environmental pollution and health hazards.
Activities of the coalmine owned by Dangote Coalmine Limited, representatives of the communities on Thursday in Abuja said have damaged their water, soil and also caused untold health challenges such as miscarriages by pregnant women.
They made the call during an engagement held at the Heinrich Boll Foundation and organised by Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP) as part of activities to commemorate the 2020 World Day of Social Justice.
“I want the Federal Government to stop this miscarriage affecting our women. We want the federal government to intercede for us so there won’t be miscarriage again,” Agagwu Rachael, Women Leader of Awoakpali community said during the meeting.
According to her, activities of the coalmine have continued to constitute serious health risks to the people of the community, noting that the Federal Government cannot afford to treat the matter with kid gloves.
Aliyu Suleiman, former Community Representative of Onupi stressed that if the coalmine firm failed to do Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the affected communities, it should suspend operation forthwith.
“My opinion is that if they don’t proceed with the EIA, they should suspend work for now,” Suleiman said.
On his part, Adejoh Samuel, Secretary of Awoakpali Coal Committee pleaded for reclamation of the polluted sites, which according to him, should be prepared for cultivation.
Speaking on one of the conditions given for the coalmine to continue operation, Samuel insisted that unemployed and qualified sons and daughters of the communities must be employed by the company.
He added that the company must provide and equip an hospital that would serve the communities.
“Secondly, if they are to continue with their mining, they should ensure our unemployed youths are given formal employment, not engaged as a casual worker. The roads should be tared and the affected communities should be provided with drinkable borehole. Then, hospital should be built and equipped.”
In his contributions, Alfa Stephen, Chairman Onupi Community advised the Federal Government to effectively intervene in the matter and provide the community with basic social necessities.
He chastised the Dangote coalmine firm for using payment of taxes to the Federal Government as justification for its activities.
“We are not feeling the impact of the federal, state and local governments. The other time we spoke with the project coordinator, he said the Federal Government should take care of us because they pay derivatives to the state government,” Stephen said.
“We need good roads to save us from the dusts on our farm produce, community clinic and a good clinic within their site where the casual workers could do regular tests.”
Speaking also at the meeting, representative of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Pius Oko, urged the communities to consider the health impact of the coal mining activities on the future generations when requesting for supports from the authorities.
According to him, the people should not be lured into immediate gratifications warning that mining affects the groundwater, and could as well cause earthquakes among other severe environmental issues.
“We should not be cajoled by menial benefits and discourage the future. I want us to have the understanding that mining also affects the soil and underneath,” Oko said.
“The issues of earthquakes and landslides come later and the health concerns of miscarriages or issues that might lead to cancer and several other ailments should not be taken for granted.”
Jochen Luckscheiter, Heinrich Boll Foundation Country Head also advised the Federal Government to implement the required laws for the protection of the affected communities and their environment.
“With this case, the government should enforce its laws that provide for the protection of communities and people from the harmful impact the company may have on the environment,” Luckscheiter.
“Generally, I want everyone in the country to rethink coal as a source of energy because of the kind of impacts we see. We should consider renewable energy.”
NESREA keeps mum after expiration of deadline to Dangote coalmine
The ICIR had on January 29 reported on a proposed meeting by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) with the affected communities with a view to provide a sustainable solution, following an earlier investigation exposing the firm’s illegalities.
The report also revealed how Dangote Coalmine issued fake Environmental Impact Assessment report to one of the host communities.
After the meeting, which held on February 5, NESREA issued a seven-day ultimatum to Dangote Coalmine to provide an original EIA and do ‘the needful’.
But days after the deadline, NESREA remained quiet on the matter. The ICIR reached out to Sule Oyofo, spokesperson of the agency on February 18, he did not respond to his calls. Text messages sent to him were also not responded to.
Two days after (today), Oyofo was again contacted but pleaded to call back after questions about the ultimatum and the next line of action was put to him.
“Gbenga! Relax, I’ll call you back,” he said during a telephone conversation with our reporter. As at the time of filing this report, Oyofo did not call back.