Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
Several communities spread across four local government areas namely Okpokwu, Ohimini, Otukpo and Ado in Southern Benue State have frowned upon the continuous pollution of their only source of water supply by a coal exploration firm.
The community noted that as a result of the mining activities, the area now face acute water crisis, the danger of water poisoning and environmental degradation.
Spokesperson and an inhabitant of the community, Mr. Emmanuel Okopi, told THISDAY on Sunday that a strip coal exploration and exploitation that commenced in the area earlier in the year by a local mining firm was responsible for the mining activities.
He explained that the result of the pollution caused to Okollo stream, and rivers Umabe, and Okpokwu, the people’s main source of water, at the upper region of Okollo stream in Effeche-Akpali in Ugbokolo Ward of the local government was bringing an untold hardship to his people.
Okopi, said the water is so contaminated that drinking it portends a great health risk.
He said, “At the height of the pollution at times, it becomes so bad and coloured to the extent that the water turns earthy and muddy so that no one can bathe in it, let alone using it to cook.”
Adding that aquatic lives, especially the fish which is also a major source of food to the villagers, are being destroyed.
Lamenting further, he said what is helping the people now is the rainy season as most people use containers to collect and store the rain water when it rains and use it for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
He said: “Following enlightenment campaigns done through town criers in the affected communities, residents now have basic knowledge of the health risks associated with the pollution.
According to Okopi, “The people have cried out at the top of their voices for help but it appears there is no relief in sight as the mining activities continue unabated without the provision of an alternative source of water to the affected communities, not even bore holes, and all efforts made to get the authorities at the local, state, and federal levels to intervene have yielded no result yet.”
He, however, noted that investigations into the matter revealed that the company compensated and resettled some affected locals within the immediate site of the mining while some prominent indigenes of the communities being affected downstream, including a paramount traditional ruler, had gone behind and collected some undisclosed amount of money.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had while speaking at the second international conference on lead poisoning associated with artisanal mining in Nigeria, had called on miners in the country to comply with the regulations on safer mining to ensure safety of lives and environment.