[INVESTIGATION] Ogbagba: Residents cry out as illegal mining activities took away their livelihood in Osun
NEWS DIGEST – Ogbagba Community is located in Ile-Ife South Local Government Area of Osun State. For a first time visitor, it may be a bit scary to believe that despite the rich story of the community, the first sight that greets you upon arrival is a bush-like entrance gate. This was the immediate ordeal of this reporter when he got to the Ogbagba community.
Known for cocoa business and palm oil merchandise, the story of Ogbagba community is now a shadow of itself with dilapidated buildings and a scarce source of livelihood.
Findings by this report reveal that mining activities which were said to have been approved by the Federal Government has been ravaging the town to the extent of degradation of their soil and scarcity of drinkable water.
Residents of the Ogbagba community who spoke with this reporter lamented that when the mining companies came to the community, they took over Cocoa plantations, leaving them with nothing as a means of livelihood.
Although this reporter observed that the mining organization had left from the community, the impact is, however, still visible.
Apart from dilapidated buildings serving as shelter for residents in the community, this reporter gathered that surviving has been another dilemma for the residents of the community.
Clean Drinking Water is a Luxury
In Ogbagba, potable water has become a difficult-to-get amenity, following the contamination of their River sources of water due to search for mining resources in the area.
The Community which houses about 100 households has been living on a skeletal pipe-bone water supply as their well water had also been abandoned due to fear of contamination.
This reporter gathered that in the 1960s, the River in the community was linked to a disease outbreak which killed dozens of children causing a blood stained urination, before the intervention of the government.
However, the same fear has been re-ignited in the residents after exposure to mining activities, a development that calls for concern among many community leaders in the area.
Ogbagba’s Soil Unfit For Farming
This reporter observed that while residents in the community were struggling to keep their farming merchandise alive, the extent of damage done to the soil has become very hard. A farmer who spoke under anonymity lamented that plants have refused to grow in its normal way due to the negative effect of mining activities in the area. The land is now unfit for farming.
Life has been hard due to Mining Activities – Residents
The community leaders who spoke with this reporter lamented how mining activities had deteriorated their living standard.
An elder in the community who identified himself as Eluyemi said: “In the location that was converted to becoming a Mining site, truly, we have lands but the farms of people were taken over, they took over the farms of indigenes and strangers.
“The time they were uprooting the trees on the farm, we did not enjoy water, if you get to the site, you will see the mess made. Although, we do not know exactly what they were looking for but we heard they saw gold on the land. We understand that there were three resources which attracted them.”
On the issue of compensation, the community elder said some of the farmers were compensated, lamenting, however, some other promises made to the locals were not met.
He said: “Some fees were allegedly paid to those who own the land. We learnt that our chief knows about it. We are cocoa merchants while we also produce palm oil. When we could not drink water again, they promised us wells and borehole but we did not see anything”
Another resident, who identified himself as Lasisi, noted that the activity stopped the community residents from being able to sell cocoa as well as produce palm oil which is their main-source of livelihood.
“When they left, the community water became cleaner,” Mr Lasisi said.
Village Head Accused of Connivance with Mining Organizations
Residents have alleged that their village head, in connivance with the Ile-Ife King, shortchanged them by cornering the money the miners paid.
“We learnt that our king is the one that got the contract of mining, if the King does not know about it, they will not dare come into the community.
“I confronted our Village head myself and asked him why our source of livelihood was being taken away but he said the contractors came from the Federal Government.
“When the contractors were to come around, we learnt that our village was invited to the Ile-Ife King’s palace and it was after this that a lot happened, we do not however know why the miners left again,” Mr Eluyemi told this reporter.
When this reporter attempted to reach the Village head, efforts proved abortive as he was said to be unavailable in the village as at the time of the report.
Osun Government Reacts
The Osun State government lamented the impact of mining on the Ogbagba community and how it degraded the soil of the area, promising to intervene in this development.
On the alleged involvement of the government in the illegal mining activities in the Ogbagba community, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Health, Siji Olamiju, said that the government would not tolerate such acts of destroying the soil of the community under the pretext of mining.
“What we have seen here is not suitable and the government under the leadership of Governor Oyetola will not tolerate environmental damage of this magnitude. The government will ensure that miners go about their business responsibly,” he added.
This investigation was published with support from the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Open Society Foundation through Global Rights.