Nigeria: Don Seeks Protection for Host Communities of Mining Firms, Others

An academician and award-winning engineer, Dr. Hilary Owamah, has called for the protection of Nigerian communities against mining companies and other extractive industries.

Owamah, who is the Acting Head of the Department of Civil Engineering, Delta State University, Abraka, Oleh Campus, President, Academic Research and Entrepreneurship Development (A-RED) Initiative, and Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers (NIEE), Asaba Chapter, made the disclosure at the Inauguration Ceremony of Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Landlords' Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN), Delta State Chapter.

The university don , according to a statement, told OMPALAN members and other participants that mining and other extractive industries were among the most destructive activities on the planet, especially for indigenous and farming communities.

He further noted that because the minerals, metals, fuel, and timber that the mining industries seek are very profitable, resisting them requires hard work.

Owamah charged OMPALAN to know, that at stake, is the cultural survival and well-being of their communities, environment, and ability to make a living -- now and for years to come.

Owamah told the participants that the three stages of mining operations; prospecting, exploration, and exploitation all cause serious negative environmental, social and health impacts to host communities.

The guest speaker decried that often times, EIA is seen just as a document to comply with national laws thereby making contractors to sometimes save time and money by copying another EIA.

He charged OMPALAN to challenge in the law courts, on behalf of their communities, concocted EIAs that are non-implementable.

Owamah reiterated that mining companies are very much aware that they must also get the approval of the local communities before going ahead with projects.

This the guest speaker referred to as the "social license."

He however went further to say that mining companies are often willing to spend millions of dollars and make endless promises to try to obtain the social license.

"They promise to build schools or bridges, provide scholarships, and jobs--whatever they think will appease a community", said Owamah.

According to the guest lecturer, while some promises are kept, many are not.

He further said that while a company may continue to make gifts to keep the population pacified, they may in the process create social havoc, violence, and deep divisions within communities and families, saying, "It may then take a long time to re-build the social, cultural and spiritual structures and bonds that were the community's real wealth".

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