As part of activities to mark this year’s Global Day for Climate action which held on the 25th of September, 2020, Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation together with other 350 Nigeria volunteers launched the COAL FREE NIGERIA CAMPAIGN.
The COAL FREE NIGERIA Campaign was influenced by a report commissioned by 350.org in 2019 on the status of coal mining in Nigeria. The report showed that coal mining in Kogi, Benue and Gombe states has led to extensive environmental degradation including the contamination of air, water and soil with severe effects on the health of local communities.
The coal miners featured in the study are Dangote Cement, ETA Zuma’s Zuma 828 Coal Limited, and Lafarge’s (Ashaka) Cement. More recently, Owukpa Consolidated Mines Limited has entered the fray.
The above-mentioned companies, despite stating lofty “green” and environmental sustainability positions on their websites and investor documents including annual and sustainability reports, continue to practice coal mining in a way that totally disregards the health and livelihoods of local communities and its effects on the global climate crisis.
Coal mining leads to extensive environmental degradation. A visit to the mining communities show that the coal mining activities have led to unacceptable levels of air, water and soil pollution. Drinking or domestic water is heavily contaminated and there is presence of heavy metals in the soil used for agricultural production, this has led to adverse effects on the health and livelihood of the communities living adjacent to mines in Kogi, Benue and Gombe states.
The mining companies are benefiting greatly from the goodwill of the local communities and not honoring the Community Development Agreements that they entered into. A review of these agreements showed that they are heavily skewed against the local people.
Despite being a party to the Paris Agreement with a pledge to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Federal Government of Nigeria has recently placed a high priority on utilizing coal to increase the country’s electricity generating capacity. In 2016, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development announced that it was working in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to increase Nigeria power generation to include 30% coal in its power mix.
Nigeria holds large coal deposits from the East to the Northern parts of the country, estimated to be at least 2 billion metric tonnes. The federal government’s goal is to revitalize the coal mining industry and expand power generation by attracting companies to exploit these large coal deposits. This is despite the fact that power generation using coal remains one of the most expensive sources of energy. The authoritative BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows that renewables such as wind and solar are growing rapidly and are fast becoming the cheapest forms of energy.
Therefore, local communities, grassroots organizations and concerned citizens of Nigeria and the World are demanding the following;
- The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to stop the issuance of licenses for coal mining in Nigeria.
- The Federal Ministry of Environment/NESREA should immediately carry out an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment on all the coal mining sites in Nigeria.
- The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development should urgently review all the Community Development Agreements signed between the coal mining communities and the Mining companies.
- The Federal Government of Nigeria should accelerate the national plans to a rapid, just transition towards 100% renewable energy for all Nigerians.
- The Federal Government of Nigeria should abide by their commitments to the Paris Agreement which requires phased reduction of Greenhouse gases such as coal fired plants.
- All mining operations in Nigeria undertaken by multinational companies should adhere to the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights.
Nigeria should take advantage of these technological advances in energy generation and being the largest economy in Africa should be a beacon for other African states by accelerating its national plans that would see a rapid, just transition towards 100% renewable energy for all Nigerians.
By Joseph Ibrahim