Greenleaf Advocacy and Empowerment Center recently took its advocacy to Effeche- Appali Community, Okpokwu Local Government Area in Benue State where it met with Youth,Women leaders, Council of chiefs and other community leaders to discuss the impact of mining activities on the environment in the community. The Center lead person, Nne Umoren , recalled the issues of water pollution that occured last year that she read over the news and she was wondering how women are coping with accessing portable drinking water knowing that extractive companies most times do not follow due process and accountable.Sh said ” I began my investigation and later put up a proposal through a network of Nigerian coal mining network compressing of CSOs working on natural resource governance and justice in Nigeria, but this was under the women wings of the Network.she said the proposal was done last year and it came through this may 2022 and she decided to come to work with the women,get them organized, build their capacity to engage and assert their rights”.
she disclosed that their visit to the community is being supported by Global Green Grants
“our aim is also to build women capacity to engage for inclusion and benefit in national resources proceeds”, she said
Chief Samuel Ameh welcomed the team and applauded them for such mission to their community, he lamented greatly the seeming frosty relationship between the community and Dangote company extracting coal in his community .He stated that community had a five years community Development Agreement CDA signed with Dangote Company which was for the company to provide alternative source of water, construction of the access road in partnership with the community providing electric poles, provide transformers and electrified the communities , build a four 4 classroom for the primary school.
Chief Ameh also said the impact of mining extraction is very high as it affects the Air , water and the land , alleging that within 3 years of their presence the company has not completed any project .the they started grading of the few months the bridge they try to set up locally is aboundon .
On the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Chief Ameh alleged that the company did not come for assessment in the community that they were only invited to to a meeting at Markudi their state capital which he went with the youth president .
He said the erosion flooding covered the land and women don’t have farms to farm anymore , even as the water has been polluted and no access road too. When asked what was the agreement on the excavation site that have been mined,He said they will claim the first site and plant cashew trees but when further ask how many hecters of numbers of trees planted, who manages the plantation non , he said no one but all he knows is that that they’ve planted cashew tree.
Dr. Doutimi Ogbfa the consultant to Greenleaf Advocacy informed the house that EIA is not a government document it is an assessment to be carried out before a project is sited at a particular place or in an area. He added that is a mandatory government requirement that a company wishing to carry out a magnificent project need to conduct and assess impact of such project will be on the environment , socio -economic human rights and health impacts of the project before a project is sited.
Dr. Ogbfa opined that when the EIA validation and review is confirmed by the community then the document is ready to be signed.
The consultant to Greenleaf also said after the project expiration there will be Post Impact Assessment (PIA) carried out to see the level of impact so far to know if they are to remediate or to mitigate impact that is likely to occur during project implementation. He added that invitation to validation meeting supposed to be at the local government council where community members should be present.
The Chief thanked the organization for throwing insight into the health hazards of the mining activities and added that Greenleaf is the first organization that visited the community to find out how they were faring.
The program lead of the organization advised the community to instruct their lawyer to write to the company , agencies of government like the ministry of Environment and other agencies both state and federal requesting for the implementation of the EIA report.
On the issue of women inclusion ,she urged the community to include women and other groups in community development plan, that they should be social inclusion practice in all community plans.
In response chief Ameh admitted that truly women are not included in community development or leadership that it was a mistake that needs to be corrected.
The Chief said he is comitted to support women and that it is true women were not consulted during the drafting of EIA and their needs was not captured.
Feedbacks lesson learnt from the engagement with the council were as follows: Chiefs and council of chiefs of Effeche -Appalli community receptive and appreciative .
Community confirms negative effects of mining with the following issues – Erosion , siltation causing blockage of flow of water along both sides of the River bank. Community confirm lost of farmlands arable land for cultivation and that is hunger and starvation in the village.
Affirm health issues through air pollution dust and particles there’s no present of any health facility in the community. Non conduct of EIA after 3 years of existence . Non inclusion of women in he signing of Community Development Agreement (CDA) Women’s needs were not captured no specific project for women. No compensation for women whose farmlands were affected.
Recommendation : The organization recommended that as EIA was not conducted before commencement of the project it is imperative to conduct a baseline study for the purpose of doing Post Impact Assessment i(PIA) in the community after 5 years.