On the 26th of May, 2021, activists at the forefront of the Coal Free Nigeria Campaign in Owupa, Odoba, and Efeche coal mining communities of Benue State were trained to take non-violent actions while demanding a coal-free Nigeria. This training became necessary with the increasing number of coal mining activities in these communities.
At this training, the activists were shown the long-term adverse effect of coal mining through a documentary on the Mpumalanga coal mines in South Africa. The activists were appalled by the level of destruction coal mining activities wrecked on the host communities in Mpumalanga. Arising from the emotions which the documentary triggered, activists of the three communities took turns in narrating experiences in their communities. They highlighted that while they are not yet experiencing the kind of devastating consequences of coal mining as seen in the documentary, they are however beginning to lose their source of water and productive land for farming activities.
In charting a way forward for the Coal Free Nigeria campaign in Benue State, Julie of Owupa community shared stories of their recent successes in the campaign. In her narration, she accentuated the key role women played in getting the coal company to hear their demands when they protested at the coal mines for 14 days. She stated that, while the security agencies were quick to arrest youth and men involved in the protest, they however exercise more restrain with women and girls. Consequently, she called for a need to engage more women in the struggle.
Furthermore, activists were trained on the act of storytelling and sharing content on social media.
The training ended with a general consensus that the activists should work together as a team rather than work in silos in their various communities in order to accelerate a Coal Free Nigeria.
By Joseph Ibrahim