Stakeholders in the solid minerals sector in Ebonyi have called on mining companies in the state to respect the rights of the host communities, while carrying out their activities.
The stakeholders made the call at a town hall meeting on Friday in Abakaliki, with the theme, ‘Actualising host communities rights through responsible governance of solid minerals sector in Ebonyi.’
It was organised by the Neighborhood Environmental Watch (NEW) Foundation, in collaboration with Global Rights.
The meeting decried the alleged marginalisation, lack of commitment to the implementation of Community Development Agreements (CDAs) and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the companies and their host communities.
Speakers at the meeting therefore called for an action plan to address the issues affecting the rights of the host communities and hampering sustainable cordial relationship between the miners and their hosts.
Dr Kelechi Okezie, the Executive Director, NEW-Foundation, said that the meeting was organised to develop an action plan for the protection of the rights of miners and host communities.
Okezie said, “Whatever we are doing today is not just talkshop, we are going to come up with implementable action plan to ensure the rights of host communities are protected.”
Speaking, Mrs Abiodun Baiyewu, the Country Director of Global Rights, charged mining companies to strive to respect the rights of their host communities.
She further urged them to pay attention to human capital development in their host communities.
According to him, economic development without human capital development is false.
Baiyewu urged mining operators to accord dignity to the people of the communities, where they carried out their enterprise.
“What makes humans different from other lives, apart from our intelligence, is the way we accord dignity to one another.
“Economic development without human capital development is false and does not hold water anywhere in the world,” she said.
She said that Nigeria had been in mining for over 200 years and that many new mining sites were opening up in different parts of the country, including Ebonyi.
“But when you think that Nigera has been mining for over 200 years and is still not one of the ultimate mining destinations in Africa, in spite of its vast mineral resources – from Abia to Zamfara – then something is wrong.
“We have not been able to get mining activities right and in few places in which we do mining, we have not been getting the rights of host communities right.
“People are more impoverished because mining is going on in their communities, instead of getting richer and this should not be.
“We know of countries that were built even with mining activities in Nigeria. Port Harcourt would not exist today, if not for the coal mine in Enugu and the need to build ports that will take coal from the country.
“Mining has become a rich part of our history but it is not making us rich as a country.
“When in 2015 the Federal Government decided what part of the economy we will prioritise, mining was clearly mentioned.
“But we are not seing the level of investment to make mining beneficial for Nigeria and to Nigerians.
Baiyewu also advocated sustainable mining policy that would address environmental challenges arising from mining activities in the host communities.
Mr Innocent Ezeigwe, Head of Administration, Ministry of Solid Minerals in Ebonyi, urged mining companies to ensure that their activities were carried out in line with extant laws on mining and solid minerals development.
Other speakers urged solid minerals producing communities in the state to form associations, which would provide platforms to engage both government and mining investors.
They said that the move would help to address the issues of marginalisation and rights denials.
The reports state that the meeting was attended by traditional rulers and community leaders from the host communities.
Also in attendance were security personnel, representatives of civil society organisations and state government officials, among others.