Women washing at the polluted Onupi River. Photo Credit: The News Digest
Women washing at the polluted Onupi River. Photo Credit: The News Digest

INVESTIGATION: Inside Kogi Communities Where Poverty Bites Harder, Despite Dangote Mining Activities

NEWS DIGEST – For residents in Awoakpali and Onupi communities of Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi State, the joy of having industrial activities going on in their locality is non-existent.

Ankpa Local Government
Ankpa Local Government

In this part of Kogi state where Dangote mining sites are located, there have been cries over environmental degradation which the residents and community leaders blame on neglect.

A visit by this reporter to the Awoakpali and Onupi communities showed activities of Coal Miners which has made the perceived serene nature of the area forfeited, residents who spoke to this reporter also described their living condition before mining began with most persons noting them as peaceful and one which they had good subsistence survival.

Polluted Onupi River Photo Credit: News Digest
Polluted Onupi River Photo Credit: News Digest

Visits to major water sources in the town show pollution of water, while fishes and crabs have almost become extinct, as well as the destruction of farmlands.

With over ten thousand inhabitants, community leaders say they find themselves in a situation which is despicable, they also alleged exploitation by the Dangote owned company.

Dangote exploiting our land for nothing in return

A community leader in Awoakpali community who pleaded anonymity lamented how the community had been contending with environmental degradation for a long time since the arrival of the Dangote Coal Mining Company.

Stressing undervaluation of the lands, the leader said: “Since there coming to my community to start their extraction activities, constitutionally they were made to pay some compensation of the land they were claiming for the exercise as licensed by the government. When they came, the first difference we had was the fact that we felt our land were undervalued.”

A close shot of the Awoakpali mining cite
A close shot of the Awoakpali mining cite Photo Credit: News Digest

“The agent Kogi State Land and Survey that came for the evaluation, we felt what they were paying us was not synonymous to what our land would offer us.” he added.

The community leader blamed the Federal Government and the Kogi State Government for not reviewing the provision of the law that states the compensation value of their land.

“The aspect of land valuation, we hold the Kogi State Ministry of Land and Survey who came to evaluate the land on behalf of the company responsible and also the Federal Republic of Nigeria because the document used to do this evaluation is outdated.

“You cannot bring a document of 1960 to come and meet up with the realities of 2020. So, they underpaid, they under-compensated, and the Federal Government of Nigeria contributed to that because they ought to have reviewed this,” he lamented.

What the law says

Checks revealed that chapter four (Environmental Considerations and Rights of Host Communities) of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act of 2007, act 102 subsection one to four, states that the occupant of land is expected to pay a tenement rate per annum in advance without demand being made of it.

The clause also stipulates that such a rate will be determined by the Minister for all land occupied or used by it in connection with its mining operation.

Subsection 2b of the clause further states that, “the Minister shall, before granting a mining lease on any private or any State land – require the owner or occupier of the land to state in writing within the period specified by the regulations made under this Act, the rate of annual surface rent which the owner desires to be paid to him by the lessee for the land occupied or used by it for or in connection with its mining operations”.

Awoakpali Coal Mining Site Photo Credit: News Digest
Awoakpali Coal Mining Site Photo Credit: News Digest

But this reporter gathered that Dangote pays N100,000 as surface rent per hectare annually, a payment the community leader described as gross poverty and ludicrous.

“Civil societies, media houses and anyone who wants to assist us should also help echo this out. Our land is being undervalued. One of the problem is that of the valuation they did, that valuation is outdated. That is a document that dates so many years back.

“Possibly that was when the value of a naira is equal to a dollar. Is like when you value an okro tree then for maybe one thousand naira and in the 21st century you’re still paying on the basis of that same document for one thousand naira, has the farmer gained or lost?,” he quizzed.

He argued that the valuation of 2020 cannot be compared to that which was obtainable over a decade before.

“But, if you look at the realities of the year 2020 and 2007 13years after, you will know that it does not commiserate what is on ground now. On that ground, you’ll see the community weeping, because at the end of the day, a N100,000 naira as compensation to a man who does not know how to do business or who do not have any means to purchase land to start farming again before you know it, from buying akara, to school fees, to health, the money finishes and he has to fold his hands to wait for one year to get maybe a 100k or 200k,” he stated.

Dangote never carried out Environmental Impact Assessment, community leaders allege

Stakeholders at the Awoakpali and Onupi communities have decried the Dangote Company’s refusal to carry out any environmental impact assessment on their land, nor did the company completed any form of reclamation.

This is as against the Nigerian mineral and mining act of 2007 which stipulates that the occupant of a land is obligated to restore the land back to the owner.

It also stipulates that an environmental protection and rehabilitation program should be undertaken – an environmental impact assessment prior to the beginning of extraction and the environmental impact assessment will be approved by Ministry of the environment in respect of the exploration or mining operations to be conducted within the mineral title area.

Speaking with one of the stakeholders in Onupi, he said: “There was no Environmental impact assessment on our land”.

Erosion emanating from the Onupi mining cite damaging farmland
Erosion emanating from the Onupi mining cite damaging farmland Photo Credit: News Digest

“Ignoring that part of the constitution to renders the company as illegal miners. We just want them to fulfil their part in the community development agreement,” he said.

Corroborating, the community leader of Awoakpali community stated that the company had not reclaimed any land, adding however that after intense pressure mounted by the community, the company had started the reclamation process.

“By the Nigeria Mineral and Mining act any piece of land you finish from, you cover it, re-fertilise it and hand it back to the owner.

“But after 4 years and after our strike with them in January this year that they started reclamation and till date as am telling you they’ve not totally reclaim any land and hand it back to the owner”.

“Also, one of the things Dangote is supposed to do to abate some of these things, some are incorporated in their company social responsibility to the community.

“The other things is supposed to be in the environmental impact assessment, where they will say, because of our actions of deforestation here, we’re going to plant trees, possibly we’re going to be planting one thousand trees in this community because of your trees we have brought down so that in future we can have a replacement, but nothing like that. Dangote cannot point to any tree they’ve planted since they came” He said.

Similarly, the community leader alleged that the liquid from the coal over-floats into the river, particularly during raining season, thereby, contaminating the river and killing fishes.

He noted that this has made living very hard for residents while it has become worrisome on survival if the situation is not checkmated.

Dangote Coal Mining Company Accused of defaulting on Community Development Agreement

The community leader in Awoakpali also narrated their struggle in the community development agreement.

According to him, at the initial stages, the first agreement had shortcomings and lapses after about two years of active mining operation and, as a result, they had to move for a redress.

“When Dangote came in, the first community development agreement that was signed was floored after about 2years, because of lapses. What are these lapses? Promises of building schools, scholarships, we will send your children for training, we will give you people corporative loans, we will repair your road, we will provide electricity, but there was no time frame included in the agreement”.

“So when Global Rights came in and other NGOs, this was realized that it was a lapse and we took it up down to the federal mines office in Lokoja, where it was accepted that the paper was in error that we should go and correct it and it was corrected. That correction now brought their social responsibility with duration”. He said.

Fetching point of the Awoakpali River
Fetching point of the Awoakpali River, Photo Credit: News Digest

When asked if the company had fulfilled other parts of the community development agreement, he said the company had erected one solar powered borehole for Awoakpali but complained it wasn’t enough for the consumption of the community.

“In fairness to Dangote, they provided one solar borehole to each community. And our complaint is that, that is not enough, because now that our rivers are polluted for a community of more than 10,000 inhabitant to be going to just one source of water.

“A community that was surrounded by water, where you can always stroll to your backyard to fetch water, you now have to go a kilometer or two to fetch water, you’re already being stressed”.

“So, we have told them, this is not enough, they should provide more boreholes for the community and promised reticulations to take water from that source to the other part but till today, nothing has been done,” he added.

However, the stakeholder in Onupi was quick to criticize the Dangote mining company for neglecting them in terms of provision of water. He lamented that the borehole the company erected for them is not serving them properly as well as the fact the water is dirty and cannot be consumed for drinking.

Supporting this claim, another community leader in Onupi said when the company and other Ankpa Local Government stakeholders visited, they asked them to drink the water, but they refused because they knew the condition of the water. He also claimed during dry season they go to neighboring villages to fetch water.

“We fetch the water from the borehole, and we gave to the Dangote people and community chiefs to drink, they said no, that the water is too dirty” he said.

Furthermore, the Awoakpali community stakeholder lamented the poor state of their roads because of the Dangote heavy duty machines that passes through their roads.

It was revealed that in the community development agreement, the company had promised to reconstruct their feeder roads.

“What we agreed in the CDA is rehabilitation of our feeder roads, but in most cases what we witness is the removal of the earth surface and by this what are we getting? Degradation of the earth”.

“But most times what we are witnessing is the continuous removal of the top soil, so that is more or less aggravating erosion and they say until the federal government grants them a tax holiday that they can’t start tarring our road because it is above their capacity, that it will affect their own interests.

Feeder roads leading to Onupi main village
Feeder roads leading to Onupi main village

According to another stakeholder in Onupi community, the company’s heavy-duty machine contributed a lot to the bad state of their roads.

“Because of their heavy duty truck our roads are bad, dust everywhere airborne pollution, and diseases. Even some women drinking that borehole end up having miscarriage,” he said.

He accused the company of polluting their farmland and water with coal particles emanating from the coal mining cite. He said the erosion from the mines flows into farms and destroy their crops.

He also accused the company of not giving the native of their community white-collar jobs as agreed in the community development agreement despite their qualification, but also admitted that the company gives scholarships of a N100,000 each to seven people each but was later increased to 10 persons last year after much clamor.

According to the community leader in Awoakpali, he also alleged that the company had not been fair to them in terms of white-collar job opportunity, stating that the highest white-collar they ever got was a bachelor’s degree holder working as a cleaner in the company’s offices.

“The highest white-collar job we got, if that is called a white-collar job, is a degree holder who is there assisting them as a cleaner in the office. Yes! I think that’s the highest white-collar job we have”.

“We submitted credentials of PhD holders in Geology, Chemical Engineering what else does a company mining coal be requiring? As I speak with you, I have a Master in Sociology of Development so if you’re thinking of developing a community do you need any other brain?”.

“I believe what they do is when they ask for such documents is to pacify us and throw it into the waste bin,” he added.

He further said the company considered four of their wards into Dangote Transport as traffic warden.

But due to COVID-19, according to him, the four of them had their appointment terminated last three weeks and that he had written to the company to reconsider them but no response from the company.

The chairman alleged that the company has been stylishly laying off their wards who are casual workers at the company.

He said: “And for this casual workers again, there is something happening there, it seems as if they are tactically pushing away this casual workers from our community, possibly because of what happened or go wrong and our sons will tell us. They are tactically terminating their appointment”.

“Today our son will have accident with the vehicle, they will terminate his appointment, the person he had the accident with, will be reinstated.”

In an interaction with the Vice-Chairman of Awoakpali community, whom our reporter met at the construction site not far from the mining site, he pointed out that the Dangote mining company does not respect the new community development agreement.

He lamented that the company promised to contract the clinic and classroom project to indigenes of the communities but ended up giving it out to an ‘outsider’.

“They have never given any contract to anybody in this community, even N1000 naira contract they’ve not given anybody. It is their people they will bring from other places to execute the contract and our people are ready to take contract from them, but they will be playing us,” he said.

When this reporter contacted Mr. Jibrin Abubakar, spokesperson of Dangote Group, he promised to get back with details but did not get back as at the time of filing this report.

This investigation was published with support from the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Open Society Foundation through Global Rights. 

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