Group Picture after the workshop

 

The need for Transparency and Accountability within the public sector cannot be overemphasized, it is against this backdrop that Global Rights and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) organized a workshop on “Promoting, Fiscal Accountability and National Development Nigeria’s Extractive Industry Governance” focusing specifically on the Mining Sector.

Ironically, when you hear of extractive industry, what comes to mind is the oil and gas sector but the mining sector is also part of it. This sector focuses on the extraction of solid minerals such as Coal, Iron Ore, and Gold etc. The sector is further made up of sub-sectors which are upstream and downstream. The downstream is made up of individuals and indigenous mining companies. On the flip side, the upstream is dominated by artisanal miners and local manufacturing companies like cement manufacturer that extract limestone.

The Nigerian Mining Sector is gradually becoming active but what has been active since is the human right violations, environmental pollution, soil degradation and soil loss, lack of adequate compensation for the host communities and the continuous court cases and out of court settlement. The real issue here is we do not see any difference after these companies have paid monetary compensation. The disturbing question is who ensures that this compensation is used for the community benefits and not squandered.

This workshop seeks to strengthen the legal framework of the Mining Sector and participatory governance which are imperative as regard promoting fiscal justice and development in the Nigerian extractive industry. The Minister of Mines and Steels ably represented by his Chief of Staff gave some insights that the Nigerian Government joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016, and committed to four key thematic areas backed by an action plan for implementation. These include (1) Fiscal transparency to ensure transparent accessibility to government financing and spending (2) coordination of anti-corruption agencies (3) access to information about government utilization of revenues and (4) citizen engagement in government policies, project, and governance.

In the same vein, a representative from the National Human Rights Commission made a very vital statement that some multinational oil and mining companies that bribe their way through,  keep violating environment and social rights, according to the Human Right Charter Article 1 which mandates extractive industry to  dispose mineral  waste appropriately and also the African Mining Vision which has a legal armour for protection of human rights violations for community hosting mining companies and artisans. According to him, all we now need is the political will, plus the National Human Right Act as amended gives jurisdiction to pursue/investigation and file court action.

In furtherance to that, the representative of Nigeria Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (NEITI) encourages CSOs participation in the implementation of its extractive mandate, pointing out that this space has not been really been tapped by CSOs, there are little to no CSO focused on one specific and strategic area like the Mining Sector, that can track royalties accrue from the miners and taxes meant for the development of the community to reduce degradation.

A major outcome was the call on CSOs/NGOs to start tracking funds going into the sector. We also appraised the Freedom of Information Act section 1(2) that said that to ask for information in public institutions you do not need to demonstrate any specific interest. Therefore anyone can actually follow up on any court or out of court settlement for or on behalf of communities.

 

Austin Ekwujuru is the Chief Executive Officer of Basic Rights Watch. He is a human rights activist, a public speaker and at best spends most of his time reading and researching. Follow him @austinchinonye1, contact him at austin@basicrightswatch.org

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