Commisioner calls foul on 95 per cent of workers in mining companies in Plateau being foreigners
Alhaji Abdullahi Abbas, the Plateau Commissioner for Solid Mineral Resources, has decried the neglect of host communities by mining companies in the state.
He alleged that 95 per cent of their workforce were foreigners.
“The law says that 70 per cent of the workforce should be from the host communities, but in my recent tour of the companies, I found that more than 95 per cent of the workers are foreigners.
“Certainly, this is not good for the state; it is not acceptable and we shall not tolerate that any longer,” Abbas told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), while reviewing a weekend meeting he held with the mining firms in Jos.
Abbas also lamented the lack of development projects in the communities “in spite of the massive destruction of their habitat”.
“The mining companies should be an asset to the host communities so as to win the people’s support and cooperation.
“But what we have are companies that do not care about the fate of the owners of the land through which they dig out the minerals,” he said.
Abbas expressed regret that the companies were not honouring agreements entered into with the host companies before embarking on the exploration.
“The companies enter into all manners of agreement; they usually promise hospitals, schools and even scholarship, but such promises usually come to naught,” he said.
According to him, it is such refusal to honour agreements that usually lead to disagreements between the companies and the host communities.
The commissioner said that Gov. Simon Lalong was particularly angry in the area of employment because it “is absurd and simply insensitive to the feeling of the people”.
He said that the companies must give special priorities to youths in the host communities in employments and scholarships “to make such youths feel an obligation to protect the company and its facilities”.
“When you leave out the youths of the area, you are alienating them from your activities and building massive anger around your activities.
“The people will feel left out and will be waiting for every opportunity to hurt you and your facilities because they feel you are just exploiting their resources with no regard to them and without giving them a sense of belonging,” he said.
Abbas also advised the mining companies to be sensitive to the environment by covering up all dug areas.
“The law is there and must be obeyed; all exploring firms should clean up environments they have destroyed so as to minimise the ponds and avoid total destruction of the habitat of the host communities.
“I told them that they must try to ensure that they do not leave death traps, especially since some of them are engaged in mechanised farming.
“They must also try to reclaim the land to avoid lead exposure since most lands for the activity are very close to the communities.
“They must also remember that the host communities are farmers and shall return to the same lands for farming after some time because that is their only means of survival,” he said.
Abbas also alerted the mining companies to the non-payment of revenue and royalties and warned that government would descend heavily on the firms if they continually defaulted.
“From our records, only N7 million was paid in as revenue into the state coffers for the whole of 2015. We won’t allow that to happen again,” he said.
He said that revenue from the federation had continued to dwindle; stressing that government was looking into alternative revenue sources with the mining sector as one major area of concentration.
The commissioner, however, promised to continue to cooperate with the mining firms, but advised them not to hesitate to draw his attention to any problem that needed government’s attention.
NAN reports that representatives of 13 mining firms from Wase attended the meeting and quoted the representatives of some firms as expressing their willingness to support host communities toward a mutually beneficial peaceful atmosphere for business.
One of the speakers, Joe Afamu, from Jotex Mining Company, said that the communities must present a united front so as to benefit from the projects by the companies.
Peter Agra from Solid Unit Mining Company, who also spoke at the interactive session, lamented that all manners of groups usually sprung up every day to “collect monies from the mining firms”.
“Sometimes, it is youth groups, community leaders and even traditional rulers.
“They come separately and we always have to oblige them.
“When you give so much to such groups, you won’t have much left for many projects,” the representatives of the mining companies said.
NAN reports that the meeting mandated the Chairman of Wase Local Government, Dr. Ado Buba, to organise the host communities into more cohesive units through which the assistance to their communities would be channeled.
Buba was also mandated to organise periodic meetings between the mining companies and host communities to promote peace and ensure mutual cooperation for the benefit of the companies, host companies and government.