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NGO advocates rights awareness campaign for mineral-bearing communities



A non-governmental organization, Neighborhood Environment Watch-Foundation (NEW-F), has called for intensive rights awareness campaign for the mineral-bearing communities in Ebonyi.

Dr Kelechi Okezie, the Executive Director of NEW-F, made the call in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency in Abakiliki on Thursday.

Okezie regretted that most of the host communities were allegedly being short-changed and deprived of their right to enjoy the benefit accruing to their area from mining operations due to their ignorance.

He said that mining falls under the exclusive list of the constitution, adding that Nigeria is a signatory to extant international laws governing mining activities.

Okezie said that proper knowledge of the laws was necessary to reduce restiveness, violent agitations and killings in the host communities.

He said that the companies were exploiting the ignorance of the host communities, hence could not discharge their corporate social responsibility to them.

He said: “Apart from local laws guiding mining activities in Nigeria, there are also international laws that govern mining operations.

“So, building the capacity of the host communities is essential to equip them with the knowledge of their rights.

“The knowledge they have will enable them to enforce compliance among the mining companies in their areas within the context of the law.

“When people know their rights and begin to demand for these rights using legal instruments it will reduce conflicts, needless agitations and everything will become open and transparent.

“So, what the mining or mineral-bearing communities will do is to get knowledge of the rights governing mining operations, know how to go about appropriating these laws to the advantage of the communities.

“Again, the knowledge of their rights will help them in drafting the Community Development Agreements (CDAs) as well as knowing what steps to take to make such agreements enforceable.”

Okezie expressed readiness of the NGO to partner any host community, whose rights to justice were being denied.

“We will build their capacity to know these laws and how to enforce them within the framework of these local and international laws and the service will be offered free of charge.

“The enforcement of the laws will make mining companies and leadership of the host communities to be transparent in their dealings,” Okezie said.

He further said that the enforcement would help to save the environment against the harmful impact of mining operations and promote environmental hygiene and sustainability.

He expressed the confidence that acquiring the right knowledge would help the host communities to legally challenge the alleged marginalisation of their people, especially in the employment of skilled manpower.


(Edited by Sam Oditah)




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