…call for adequate attention, inclusion
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Mining host communities under the auspices of the Federation of Nigerian Mining Host Communities, FNMHC, Friday, lamented alleged neglect by government and mining companies operating in their areas.
This was contained in a communique issued at the end of its inaugural summit held in Abuja, which had attendance from representatives of mining host communities from the six geopolitical zones of the country, which issues on social safeguards, environmental and socio-economic sustainability of Nigeria’s mining host communities were discussed.
The Federation centred on disturbing trends of mining activities negatively impacting human and environmental lives on a daily basis, which is common to many mining host communities while reviewing impacts of artisanal and large scale mining activities.
It also appreciated the role of Global Rights and other civil society organizations that have contributed to the capacity and development of mining host communities.
The communique reads in part, “The Nigerian constitution mandates in Section 17 (2)(d) that the “exploitation of human or natural resources in any form whatsoever for the reasons, other than the good of the community shall be prevented.
“While mining holds the potential of prospering their host communities when done in a sustainable manner, Nigeria’s extractive industry is froth with numerous problems including fiscal injustice, environmental degradation, proliferation of abandoned open mining pits, consequences of climate change, security challenges, the vulnerabilities of women, children and disabled persons to rights violation, water and air pollution, negative impacts on traditional livelihoods, destruction of eco-systems and water stress, and others.
“Concerned that the disconnect between the mining companies and their host communities, on one hand, the government, on the other hand, has led to miscommunication of intentions, corruption, poverty, and lack of effective monitoring of mining activities, thereby putting the environment and health of the people in jeopardy, and negatively impacting livelihoods.
“Shrinking freshwater resources is fast assuming a crisis dimension in most mining host communities across Nigeria and that water is at the nerve of the existence of mining host communities, and yet, mining is a water-dependent resource.
“Acknowledging that artisanal mining consists of more than 80 per cent, of all form of mining in Nigeria, and are as environmentally destructive as large mining companies.
“Aware that a vast majority of mining host communities like their hydrocarbon counterparts are marked by poverty and underdevelopment, while the potentials for development continues to go unrealized.
“Acknowledging the testimonials of mining host communities representatives from Ebonyi, Gombe, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Plateau, Taraba, and the Zamfara States as being accurate accounts the mining contexts of mining host communities across Nigeria.
The communique also pointed out that, “These problems are exacerbated by gaps in the laws governing mining in Nigeria, failure of investors to comply with laws and regulations, lack of inter-ministerial coordination, lack if technical-know-how by artisanal miners, and failure to respect the rights of mining communities to free, prior and informed consent as prescribed by the ECOWAS mining directive by which Nigeria is bound.”
Meanwhile, the Federation recommended that mining laws and policies reflect the reality of 80 per cent of mining activities in Nigeria are artisanal in nature, hence to ensure these categories of miners are made to contribute to government revenue and to make them have respect for the environment and best practices.
They also stated that legal requirements guiding social safeguards, in particular, the process of reaching Community Development Agreements, CDAs, and obtaining a social license for mining, which should be strengthened to effectively protect the rights of mining communities, and reflect their collective desires.
“The legal requirements for Environmental Impact Assessments should be expanded to become Environmental, Social, and Human Rights Impact Assessments, and should develop standards for even artisanal mining.
“There is limited literacy in English in most of the country, the government must, therefore, ensure that impact assessments, laws, and policies are translated into local languages to ensure mining host communities are not disenfranchised.
“Government must ensure that mining host communities are actively engaged and make inputs into impact assessments affecting their communities before they are endorsed for projects.
“Fiscal justice is imperative for ensuring the development and sustainability of mining host communities. Review of the regime of royalties and taxes for mining revenue to ensure the mop-up of revenue for a reasonable allocation trickles back to the derivative host communities.
“Where land is acquired for mining purposes, the value of compensation should be commensurate to the commercial value of the size of the land and the impact the community will suffer.
“Stakeholders, the government, in particular, should develop strategies to encourage the indigenous ownership of mining investments.
“There should be an immediate reclamation of existing abandoned mining pits across the country, utilizing the Ecology Fund.
“Government should take urgent measures to mitigate the loss of freshwaters and the ecosystems they support.”