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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Govt oversight functions absent in Nasarawa mining community, group alleges

The Renevlyn Development Initiative (RDI) has called on the Federal and Nasarawa State Governments to carry out proper oversight functions to stop illegal miners now trooping into Uke district in Karu local government area of Nasarawa in search of solid minerals.

The mining landscape
The mining landscape

RDI request is informed by findings from an investigation carried out by its field monitors in Uke district in Karu LGA where community members complained about the unchecked influx of foreigners into the community and the likelihood of insecurity in the district due to the illegal mining activities. They revealed that the situation has escalated following the recent announcement by the state government that it had obtained a license from the federal government to mine gold and lithium in the district.

Governor Abdullahi Sule had disclosed during the state executive council meeting in January 2024 that the state government had secured three licenses for exploration of gold and lithium, and expressed optimism that the state would benefit immensely from the exploration of the mineral deposit in terms of revenue generation and job opportunity for its teeming youths.

But RDI Board member, Tobias Dapam Lengnan, said that the team that visited the district noticed that though the mining activities in the area were crude and lacked semblance of proper regulation, the miners stopped anyone from coming into the environment with video recording equipment or those intending to use their phones for the same purpose. They also barred anyone claiming to be a journalist from entering the mining sites.

The team also learnt that the horde of young miners consisting of mainly non-natives and nationals from other countries in West Africa do not respect the culture of the people and displayed aggressive tendencies when they are challenged.

It was alleged that aside from the poor state of the environment, prostitution is now a serious challenge in the district as the miners allegedly lure young girls away from their homes and schools with cash in exchange for sex, promises of procuring them mobile phones and other favours.

In a statement issued in Abuja, RDI Executive Director, Philip Jakpor, said: “The situation in Uke and surrounding mining communities in Nasarawa reflects a growing and disturbing pattern of violation of the environment in mining communities across the country from Zamfara to Kaduna, Plateau, Ebonyi and elsewhere allowing the miners to operate unchecked while the local landowners and farmers lose out.”

Jakpor explained that the findings exposed the stark reality that the kind of crisis in communities where fossil fuel extraction occurs is now being replicated in communities where the exploration and extraction of supposed green minerals like lithium are ongoing.

He argued that the lack of proper oversight functions and monitoring of mining activities and its actors by the government are responsible for the challenges that locals near the mining sites are complaining about, even as he added that, suddenly, all the mining sites in the country had become no-go areas.

“In some cases, there is clear collusion between the miners and unscrupulous government officials who allow them to terrorise and force communities and farm owners from their ancestral lands so that they can continue their environmentally unfriendly practices.”

Going further, he demanded that the Nasarawa and Federal Governments compel the mining companies operating in Uke district to comply with regulations in Nigeria’s Minerals and Mining Act 2007 which stipulates that no reconnaissance activity shall be carried out and no mineral title shall be granted under the Act over any area that is designated as closed to mining.

In the field report from the investigation, see here: https://renevlyninitiative.org/2024/03/25/how-lithium-and-gold-mining-fuel-insecurity-prostitution-in-nasarawa-community/ RDI urged government to carry out comprehensive environmental audit in Uke district to ascertain the level of destruction of the environment, pollution of farmlands and ground water that the locals consume to be followed by restoration of the environment and commensurate compensation for local community members.

“Unless these measures are taken, the fanfare that has greeted Nigeria’s recourse to green minerals will evaporate before our own eyes and the communities that had welcomed government initiatives in this regard will start experiencing what their counterparts in the Niger Delta are experiencing. We cannot allow that to happen,” he stated.

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