By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Stakeholders have lamented the high level of poverty bedeviling mining host communities describing them as the face of poverty in the land.
Research Consultant on Solid Minerals Governance, Nigeria Dr. Dauda Garuba stated this in an interview with Journalists, at the Second edition of the West African Mining Host Communities Indaba which began in Abuja Yesterday, themed Enhancing Efficient Natural Resource Management for the Sustainability of Extractive Host Communities in West Africa.
Global Rights organised the Indaba in collaboration with the African Coalition on Corporate Accountability (ACCA) with support from the FORD Foundation. Participants are drawn from Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone among others
According to Dr. Garuba “Generally the communities are actually the focus of every mineral that is supposed to be the blessing of a country and if at the end of exploitation, the community have nothing to show for the resources, God blessed them with, then it is as good as just leaving the minerals in the ground.
“Over time we have seen situations where communities, where natural resources are taken in the country, have become the face of poverty in the land. Including the oil and gas sectors. Sometimes we hear of the billions mentioned but when it comes to looking at the lives of the people from areas where such huge resources are coming from, it leaves one wondering whether to weep or not”
Giving an overview of the conference objectives, Lyse Mpema said the summit was organized to provide a platform for dialogue by stakeholders on critical matters relative to extractive communities, to generate a shared understanding and collective perspective by stakeholders on appropriate intervention for strengthening the ability of mining communities in West Africa. We want to create an opportunity for stakeholders to put together their expertise on protecting the rights of mining host communities and also increase the public awareness
A representation of host community members who spoke to the media lamented the devastation they suffered in their various communities while lamenting the neglect by the government and extractive industries at large.
Speaking on Zamfara, a state overridden by the activities of illegal miners and bandits, an Activist from the Center for Community Excellence, a community Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) advocating for the rights of mining host communities Adamu Abubakar Kwatarkwashi lamented that despite the order banning mining across the state, huge mining companies and even illegal miners continue to operate as Government lacks the security mechanism to stop their activities in the state.
In his words “We cannot rule out the possible linkage between the escalation of conflict in Zamfara state and banditry. There are political and economic linkages, further adding that with the escalation of conflict in the state citizens were forcefully displaced and now lack the room to ask for compensation or demand for the activation of Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) from Companies.
Quoting official figures from the state, Mallam Adamu said “From the last records from the State Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs IDPs, we have over 874,000 displaced persons across the 14 local government areas in Zamfara state.
Noting that there were currently no designated IDP camps across the state, he said the displaced population loitered the markets streets and other neighbouring communities
He maintained that aside from the displaced citizens were a high number of out-of-school children and worst high activities of banditry across the state.
Also representing Ebonyi state, Princess Ogbuinya Sylvia said it had been a horrible situation noting that the community was better off when there was no mining in their community.
In her words “When there was no mining our community was better off. Currently, they have destroyed our farmlands, our water has been polluted, our health is compromised with many dying or dead, our homes and houses are devastated as a result of their blasting activities and our lives are endangered as they use the army (soldiers) to harass us.
She added that this is made worse by the Company’s refusal to dialogue with individual land owners insisting they will only dialogue with the Community through the CDA reached, which they fail to implement.
According to Princess Ogbuinya “This Company is owned by an Indian, how can they come to our own country and be harassing us, and rather than protect us the federal government chooses to protect the expatriates?” she queried
One of our boys was shot and has become helpless to himself, another was shot in his arm because his house was affected and when he reported to the company nothing has been done
“We have written timelessly to the ministry and nothing was done. We wrote to the National Assembly where a panel of inquiry was set up. The NASS, following failed attempts to get the Company to sit with them, ordered that the Company pays the community the sum of N1.5b in damages but to date, nothing has been heard” she