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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Unsustainable mining: Halting the scarification of Abuja

Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), at a community consultation in Abuja on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 frowns at the deadly act of rock blasting in residential communities

Nnimmo Bassey, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)

The Federal Capital Territory boasts of very unique landscapes. It is dotted with hills and other natural artefacts. These hills are significant as place markers and they equally have cultural and other traditional functions in the communities.

Besides those, the hills are of very high aesthetic value.Unfortunately, these hills have become the target of companies mining building materials with little attention paid to the communities. We see rock blasting or mining going on across the territory, including those right inside communities.

From our interactions with some of the communities in the FCT, we realise that the reckless blasting of rocks with explosives raise issues of concern including those of security of life, environmental pollution and regular destruction of buildings and infrastructure. The blasting also violate the peace that communities used to enjoy.

The grave dangers rock blasting expose communities to are especially worrisome because citizens and livestock are placed in the line of the danger of falling into the unprotected and open craters left by the exploiters.

There is an urgent need for open discussions to be had on the reckless and destructive mining of building materials in the territory. It appears that those destroying the beauty of nature in the territory either do not understand the importance of the hills to the communities or simply do not care.

While we all want improved infrastructure and buildings in Abuja, it does not mean that the environment of communities should be destroyed. It does not mean that a people’s cultural heritage should be wiped out on the altar of greed or of Naira or other forces. Some of the hills may have have traditional religious significance to the communities. Some traditional religions have ecological norms that have effectively protected landmarks, forests and biodiversity.

The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, Section 98 subsection 1, states, “No person shall in any course of exploration or mining, carry out operations, in or under area held to be sacred or permits injury or destruction of any tree or other thing which is object of the veneration.”

Is this and other clauses related to community relations being respected? A man from another impacted community once told me, “Today, the reality is that the miners do not respect the land, the hills and the people. To them, all that matters are pieces of rocks used in building roads and houses. Nothing is sacred places and places of importance to our peoples are blasted away without any measure of concern. We are not respected and we are  not safe.

”The Minerals and Mining Act requires that no mining should be carried out without adequate consultation with relevant communities. This consultation has to result in the community giving a consent before any mining is carried out. They could also withhold consent. The consultation includes agreements on rents to be paid for the land as well as community projects to be executed. The Act also requires that there should be provisions of funds for the restoration of the environment at the end of the mini

ng exercise.Are any of these being done in the impacted communities? Are they receiving annual rent for the destruction of their lands and hills? Have the mining companies provided anything of benefit to the communities? Has money been set aside for the repair of damage being done at the end of the day? Will the hills be restored after they have blasted? Is anyone paying for the loss of the beauty that the hills provided? Can these loses ever be paid for? Was there any agreement before the rocks are blasted away?

We can ask more questions. Sadly, the hills and rocks in the FCT are fast depleting and while others have been heavily defaced. The implication of these activities are enormous. We do not see an easy way to restore the rocks, land, trees, wild life, water and overall biodiversity to their original state after their destruction.

The environment belongs to us all. The environment supports our lives and livelihoods.We must all work together to preserve and sustain our environmental heritage not for just today but for future generations. It is extremely painful to watch a people’s ancestral and beautiful rocks destroyed for profit by entities that are duly paid to buy building materials but prefer to harvest them by destroying our collective heritage.

We must thank groups like U-RED for keeping conversations on this topic alive. We need to remind and enlighten ourselves of harmful impacts of these activities going on in our environment daily. Allowing miners to blast rocks in our communities exposes our people to dust pollution while the vibrations crack and destroy houses, farmlands and ecosystems.

We believe that actions need to taken to halt the state of affairs that mean nothing but degradation of the living environment of our peoples.

To this end, we demand the following:

  • That the hills in the FCT should be mapped, documented and protected as culturally significant environmental artifacts.
  • That the full consent of communities must be obtained before rock blasting or mining is carried out in the territories.
  • That there must be adequate and full compensation for rocks already blasted and those responsible should be compelled to restored the scarified environment.
  • That rock blasting in the FCT should be prohibited. Where such is allowed elsewhere they should only be permitted outside communities and farmlands should be prohibited.
  • That ongoing rocks blasting are stopped for the preservations of the heritage and cultural identity of the peoples.

At a time where violent conflicts are recorded with regard to access to agricultural land, rock blasting in the FCT threatens to add to the crises and should be checked before it is too late

.The Nigerian environment has been heavily impacted by mining, leaving tales of woe across the land – from oil pollution in the Niger Delta to lead poisoning in Niger and Zamfara states. We cannot afford to keep a blind eye on the rock blasting and the ugly scarification of Abuja. It is time for the administration of the FCT as well as the responsible ministries to take urgent steps to stop the despoliation of the territory. This is one environmental abuse too many.

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