Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Global Rights, a civil society organisation, has asked the federal government to proactively take up the challenge of protecting the rights of communities in Nigeria that host mining operations.
Its Executive Director, Abiodun Baiyewu, while speaking at the opening of a recent workshop on ‘translating the ECOWAS mining directive and regional instruments within the context of business and human rights,’ in Abuja, said the fundamental rights of host communities of mining operations in the country were constantly abused by mining operators who leave such communities in misery after exploiting their resources.
Baiyewu, said given the reported losses suffered by host communities across the country, especially in Zamfara and Kogi States, it had become imperative for mining companies to be more responsible in their operations.
She said it was chiefly the responsibility of the government to ensure this happened.
According to her, there is an urgent need to balance the practice of mining as a commercial venture seeking to earn profit from the natural resources of communities and rights of host communities to good health and clean environment.
Baiyewu, underpinned this call with the government’s recent reported look-in on solid minerals mining as an alternative to crude oil revenue.
She explained in this regards that: “Mining is becoming a major concern in Nigeria and we must not make the mistakes we made with the hydrocarbon in the mining industry. If mining would work for the rights of Nigerians, it must be a deliberate effort to ensure that rights of Nigerians are protected.”
Going further, Baiyewu, pointed out that mining businesses should be concerned about human rights because, “if they don’t, they will create hostile communities.”
“Hostile communities will eventually impact on their bottom line and their profit margin,” she added, while indicating that Nigeria was yet to submit any document to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) despite 2014 being the deadline for the submission of implementation plan of the ECOWAS mining directives.
She however observed that ECOWAS has not developed any sanction for countries who fail to implement the directives, but noted that countries such as Ghana, which were already implementing the plan had started reaping the benefits.
Baiyewu said: “In Ghana production is higher and the general state of the communities has become more peaceful since they started the implementation.”
Also, she explained that most of the illicit financial flows from mining in Africa come largely from Nigeria, and that data showed Nigeria has more gold than Ghana, but simply fails to manage the mining process of her gold deposits.
She thus urged the government to do more to protect mining host communities as they have become more vulnerable to mining activities in their domain.
Similarly, in his address at the meeting, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Abdulkadir Muazu explained that as a regulator, the ministry recognised that government and mining title holders have the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights of mining host communities in the country.
Muazu, explained: “We are mindful of the need to improve economic and social justice within the communities in decision making processes with regard to mineral exploitation as part of an efficient conflict prevention policy and strategy.”