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Enugu communities apprehensive about planned resuscitation of moribund coal mines

Location: Okpara, Onyeama, Iva Valley, Ogbete in Enugu North and South Local Government Areas of Enugu State.

Dates of Visit:  10th and 11th February 2014

Report by: Philip Jakpor & Akinola Tosin

BACKGROUND

Coal generated lots of revenue for Nigeria between the years 1916 and 1970 when it was one of Nigeria’s major revenue earners. In the south eastern part of the country exploration of the mineral began proper in present day Enugu State in 1909, with production at the mines in Onyeama, Ogbete, Iva Valley and Okpara climbing from 25, 511 tons in 1916 to an estimated 583,422 tons before a decline set in during the Nigerian Civil War which started in 1967 and ended 1970. At the end of the war most parts of the South east had been ravaged and many expatriate mining experts, mostly from Britain and Poland had leftNigeria. The exit of experts coupled with the discovery of commercial quantity of crude oil which made the government to abandon coal resulted in the neglect and subsequent abandonment of the massive infrastructure at the mines managed by the Nigerian Coal Corporation (NCC). The NCC tried to manage operations unsuccessfully for another 30 years but the game was up. It finally folded up in 2002. The former miners were not laid off and neither was their employment terminated. The only legacy of mining they have is  the Colliery Quarters near Iva Valley that they live.

CURRENT REALITY

Mining is no longer carried out at the Onyeama, Iva Valley, Ogbete and Okpara mines but the Federal Government’s signing of a $3.7 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chinese firm–HTG-Pacific Energy Consortium, to generate power from coal in Enugu has unsettled the local communities, most of whom are in the dark as regards the project and its likely impact on their environment.

The sale of two properties of the NCC – its headquarters at Okpara Avenue and Colliery Hospital, to the Enugu state government by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) under the Federal Government privatisation of landed properties in the state has remained a thorny issue among the community folks and former miners. The ERA/FoEN team learnt that in November 2013 the Enugu State government took possession of the two properties. The coalfields also have to be sold by BPE before the new owners can go into partnership or have a working agreement with Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) to generate an estimated 1,000 megawatts from coal.

Miners who worked at Iva Valley whose jobs were abruptly and only have the Colliery Quarters as the abode also learnt that the state government wanted them out of the quarters. Under the monetization policy of the federal government, the original allottees of the quarters are permitted to bid for the houses. They were however not given that opportunity and got a rude shock instead as the government began evicting them.

As at the time of ERA/FoEN visit forceful eviction of locals and demolition of their quarters in Iva Valley Colliery Quarters and other coal mine communities was ongoing. The way the state government embarked on the evictions fuelled the suspicion that the coal fields may and beyond have also been sold and the government plans to go ahead with the commencement of coal mining without the consent of the locals.

ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS STILL RIFE

Meanwhile, the open pits surrounding communities where mining was hitherto carried out continue to pose environmental and health risks to them. Estimates put the impacted at over 100,000 people. Aside the dangers posed by the open pits, the mine fields are now overgrown with tall grasses and weeds that have made them haven for snakes and other dangerous reptiles. The communities are now also harassed by roving herdsmen from other parts of Nigeria who not only destroy their farmlands with their cattle, but also kill, rape the women and steal.

VISIT TO THE MINING COMMUNITIES

ERA/FoEN field monitors visited Onyeama, Iva Valley, Okpara and Ogbete to obtain testimonies from the local folks and document the current state of affairs in their environment.

From the testimonies taken from the community folks they were in unanimity that that due diligence was not a consideration in the sale of the lands and abode of former miners by the BPE as is expected under the federal government’s monetization policy on one hand, and in the agreement between the state government and the Chinese firm on the other hand, especially in the area of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

ERA/FoEN learnt that selling of the coal fields without any consultation with the locals means that the whole area that they inhabit has been sold without any clear indication on the limits of excavations and the impact of such activity by the company. The mining deal has also increased the apprehension of the local folks who also contend with the fact that the quarters they live have also been slated for sale without their knowledge.

 

IVA VALLEY

Iva Valley belongs to Ngwo community. The entire landscape where coal was mined was given free by the Ngwo to the Nigerian government in exchange for employment during the glory days of coal mining. But all that has changed. The first port of call for the ERA/FoEN team wasIva Valley colliery quarter. Hereit was observed that onlyoneroad leadsinto the quartersand is riddled with cratersat virtually all the sections while the estate itself is now squalor. Crammed between what is known as Forest Hills and the Iva Valley Camps 1 and 2, it was supposed to be one of the prime residential areas in Enugu going by its history. That is however not the case as it is now a place for the down-trodden; retired and old miners and peoplewith no meaningful livelihood. Indeed, Iva Valley had long lost its glorious days. It is all now begging for attention and rehabilitation. As you approach the areas the only visible signs to show that it was once a well paved settlement are the mango, the orange and guava trees indicating that this place was once a beehive of social and economic lives.

It was observed also that the road that leads to the former mining site is in a parlous state, making vehicular movement tortuous. Because of this, several times the ERA/FoEN team had to alight and walk distances before joining the vehicle again. This happened several times. At the former mining sites dilapidated infrastructure including former offices, pipelines and rail tracks for the trains that hitherto conveyed coal from Enugu to other parts of the country were noticed and captured on camera.

Our guide explained that the constant invasion of farmers by herdsmen from the northern parts of Nigeria is now an added dimension to their woes.

ONYEAMA

At Onyeama it was also noticed that a lot of abandoned facilities dot the landscape of the former mining fields. A major issue that always came up in the course of the interrogation of locals, especially the women, is the pollution of the waters from the rocks bya chemical that was used at the washery in mining process. It was learnt that the waters from the surrounding rocks were very pure even up till the Nigerian civil war, so much that the Biafran soldiers that camped nearby called it “mirin ocha” meaning clean white water. The waters from the hills in Onyeama flow through several towns and terminate at the Ekulu River.

OKPARA

Okpara, like Onyeama had many abandoned facilities also overgrown with weeds. The team could only go as far as the entrance of one of the mines as a few of the locals along the way warned of dangerous snakes in the environment and the presence of herdsmen from the northern parts of the country that have been associated with destruction of farmlands, stealing, raping of women and killing in some cases.

The team however spoke with several community folks including Njemanze Oriaku, a former miner who said the community folks are not happy with news emanating from Iva Valley Colliery Quarters where their former colleagues have been forcefully ejected from the apartments even when they were not given the option of buying the houses as recommended under the Monetisation Policy.

Oriaku said; “If they could swiftly throw out people who have given their best in serving the state through their work and life, then there is a real possibility that the same fate awaits us”

OGBETE

AtOgbete where most of the coal mine exploration will be carried out by the Chinese firm — HTG-Pacific Energy Consortium — the team observed that many of the locals live within the vicinity of the moribund mines, the team met with, and spoke with locals who said that the deal between the government and the mining companywere carried out without any consultation with them. Emeka Ugbaka, a local farmer and resident of the community said the locals only got to know that the mines will soon be put into use by some of their wards in Enugu town who read the reports in the newspaper with shock.

In Ugbaka’s words: “The report in the newspapers seemed to indicate that we had met with the government and the firm and agreed they should proceed with the plans to explore the huge quantity of coal that were found buried in the earth in the community.

He explained further that,contrary to government publicity that consultations had been carried out and the locals have given the Chinese firm go ahead on the project, nothing of such happened. Instead, he said the locals now fear that they may face forceful eviction like former miners living in Iva.

His wife, Adaeze also corroborated his assertion, We always ensure one or two of our children remain at home whenever we go out to work so that if the government wants to spring a surprise like they did at the Iva Valley Colliery Quarters we will not be caught unawares. But the sad part of all this is that if they actually storm the community we will be helpless. The Colliery Quarters example shows because they are doing it in batches and come unannounced. It is really very sad.

 

TESTIMONIES AT TOWNHALL MEETING

The highpoint of the visit to the communities was a townhall meeting where the ERA/FoEN mission was explained. Philip Jakpor, ERA/FoEN project officer told the gathering that globally coal is being faced out as it is one of the solid minerals that pollute the environment coupled with its emissionthat causes lung problems and chest pains.

Anene of At the event the locals expressed their views on the matter in contention:

Nze Raphael Agu, retired coal miner

The secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding plans to resuscitate the moribund mines here in Enugu are very disturbing because we the former miners are now being systematically removed from the mining quarters that some of us have inhabited for over 40 years or more. The state government in partnership with the BPE is now making life unbearable through this backdoor activity. We had anticipated that in line with the federal government’s monetization policy initiated during the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo they would allow us bid for the houses we had occupied for years and then buy. This is what we learnt happened in other sectors so why should the coal mining sites and the quarters of former miners be sold without our knowledge or consent? Some of us have put in many years in coal mining and do not deserve this kind of treatment. I was first employed as a casual worker at the Colliery headquarters on 21st November 1955. As a casual I was in charge of the works department which handled roads, buildings and so on.

Nze Nicholas Ikpa, retired staff of Nigeria Coal Corporation

I worked in the coal mines before the Nigerian civil war and even after the war when the decline in coal production started. I was the chief security personnel so I know a lot that transpired at the time especially how people worked tirelessly and got little to show for it. The quarters is all the former miners have so you can imagine the pain of knowing that the BPE and Enugu state government could wake up one day and hand down notices of forceful execution. Now we are hearing of the plan to begin coal mines to feed the electricity plant in the state and they are telling us nothing. It is very sad that we now live in poverty.

Nkechinyere Onyemeachi, wife of retired miner in Iva Valley

Our eviction from Colliery Quarters came as a shock because nobody notified us prior to the day the eviction took place. Suddenly officials of the state government came to the quarters with stern-looking policemen, ordered us to get out of our homes and then started knocking down everything.  They showed us a notice of eviction which nobody had received previously and said they had given us three months prior notice. The most painful part of this all is that my husband worked at the quarries for over 30 years and now suffers from arthritis due to the exposure to cold and other bad working conditions which affected him. Yet, this is how the government now wants to pay us back. 

 

Pictures from the Communities

Symbol of Resistance: Monument of coal miners protest at Iva in 1949

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A dilapidated structure at the Okpara mines

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The entrance to one of the mining tunnels at Iva Valley

Jakpor explains thrust of community visits to folks at Udi-Siding near Ogbete Market

Jakpor

Some community representatives at the townhall meeting

townhall_meeting

ERA/FoEN Recommends

  • Federal and Enugu State governments review the sale of lands in the mining communities and engage the community folks in dialogue on all matters concerning the sale and planned commencement of coal mining
  • Federal and Enugu State governments make public the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chinese company – HTG-Pacific Energy Consortium
  • The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) halts the ongoing secret sale of quarters inhabited by former coal miners in Enugu, some of whom have been living in the quarters for upwards of 40 years. Families already displaced in the process should be properly rehabilitated
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Shell’s Bonga spill reaches two communities in Ekeremor

Reports of further spread of the slick from Shell’s Bonga facility to more communities necessitated a visit by ERA/FoEN field monitors to two of the affected communities in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, along the Dodo River. The communities are Bilabiri and Amatu. The Dodo River empties into the Atlantic Ocean and the main occupation of the people there is fishing. ERA/FoEN’s visit was in response to information that the Bonga spill has reached the two communities; to see things first hand.

The field monitors were accompanied by the national spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council [IYC], Jeremiah Perekeme Oweipele, as well as Tobovieyi Kenigbolo and Eneme Akali [members of the IYC]. The team visited two communities where Dodo River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. A community folk from Amatu community also made his observance known, especially on the sudden emergence of Shell’s boom in their waters. Their testimonies and observations follow:

TESTIMONIES FROM COMMUNITY FOLKS

City Saka, former Chairman of the Community Development Committee [CDC] of Bilabiri

It is true that the Bonga spill spread to our community, Bilabiri. That was one of the subjects of discussion between Shell and the thirteen communities in the area on 29th December 2011 at Wellington Hotel, Warri. Shell actually admitted that we were impacted by the spill from Bonga. That is the much I can say for now. But you are free to hear from other community folks too.

Jeremiah Charles from Amatu Community

As you can see we are just coming from one of our usual fishing expeditions to the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, we experienced the spill here about a week ago. The slick is being carried in different directions. If you were here last week you would have noticed it here. These Shell booms you see on both sides of the Dodo River were not here before. And, I think this can tell you that something of that nature happened here. Although I didn’t see when those booms were brought and positioned there, it is very recent, within the period of the Bonga spill.

From where Dodo River empties into the Atlantic Ocean, ERA/FoEN monitors observed a gas flare far away. When ERA asked if the flare was from the Bonga, Jeremiah Charles responded thus:

No, that flare is from Middleton operated by Chevron/ Texaco in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area. The spill I was talking about is from Shell’s Bonga field. We still spot slicks in the ocean as we go about our fishing activities; even though the ocean current seems to have taken it to other places. As for the impacts on our fishing, looking at what we are returning home with can tell you something. We are not catching fish as before any more….

 

OBSERVATIONS/CONCLUSION

One of the main observations of ERA’s field monitors was the very long Shell oil booms found in the environment, positioned almost opposite each other on both sides of the Dodo River and close to the junction of Dodo River and the Atlantic Ocean. Boldly written on the boom were the words: Fose Boom, Shell P.D.C Nigeria. The G.P.S coordinates where the booms were seen include: Elev:9m, N 04°55.249’ , E005°27.185’ and Elev:12m, N 04°55.172’, E005°27.544’. From the length of the booms [about four of them], they might cross the width of Dodo River from left to right. Since booms are mostly used to contain the spread of oil slick, ERA monitors were convinced that the booms were brought by Shell there because of the spread of the Bonga spill.

ERA DEMANDS

  • Shell stop denying responsibility for the spreading slick in Ekeremor and other Niger Delta communities
  • Community folks note and record all observations in their environment and notify NOSDRA and other relevant government agencies and environmental/human rights groups
  • The Federal Government set up a critical stakeholders’ team of experts to investigate the spill and related reports

Shell pay adequate compensation for specific and general damage to victims of the Bonga spill.

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Shell’s Bonga spill spreads to Odioama

Location: Odioama Community, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State

Date of Visit: 26 December 2011

By Alagoa Morris

 

INTRODUCTION

Following an alert from fisherfolks in Odioma community on the discovery of oil slick suspected to be from Shell’s Bonga Field, ERA/FoEN monitors visited the Atlantic shoreline in the company of some of the fishermen where spreading spill was sighted.

Odioama, a Nembe-speaking Ijaw community is on the fringes of the Atlantic Ocean in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and its people have a large number of fisherfolks who derive their livelihood from Atlantic Ocean.

Areas visited by ERA/FoEN monitors in the company of three community folks – Elder James Sampson aka Ovie Kokori, Danyo Ogoniba and Ayeomane Ayela, included Fish Camp 2 opposite the Varnish Island and St. Nicholas. In the course of the visit, spreading slick was observed close to the coastline of Odioama and along St. Nicholas. More quantity was observed spread out at the Varnish Island.

 

THE BONGA SPILL

Shell had on Wednesday (21 December 2011) announced that some 40,000 barrels of crude had leaked into the Atlantic Ocean from the 200,000 barrels per day Bonga Deep Offshore Oil Fields which it operates on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under a production sharing contract.   The field, 120 kilometers southwest of the Niger Delta, was discovered in 1996, with government approval for its development given in 2002 and first production in November 2005. The field is run in partnership with Esso (20 per cent), Nigeria Agip (12.5 per cent) and Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited (12.5 per cent) and was built at a cost of $3.6 billion.

The December 21 spill at the Bonga facility is said to have occurred while a vessel was being loaded with crude oil. The River Ramos near Warri is reported to have also been affected by the Bonga spill, while local fishermen in Forcados on Monday (December 26) also raised the alarm about an unreported oil spill that has been on for about two weeks at Otumara in Escravos, Ugborodo area of Delta State.

SATELLITE IMAGE OF THE SPILL

Source: SKYTRUTH

shell_satelltie

On Wednesday, December 21, SkyTruth obtained a radar satellite image showing a major oil spill in the waters off the coast of Nigeria. The image, taken at approximately 9:30am local time on December 21, 2011 by the ASAR instrument aboard the Envisat satellite operated by the European Space Agency, reveals a slick covering 923 square kilometers (356 square miles). The image may be viewed and downloaded from the SkyTruth blog.

 

oil_spill_3

oil_spill_4

TESTIMONIES FROM FISHERFOLKS

Lucky Tema

I have been in this fishing camp here in Odioama for about twelve years now. I am an Ilaje man and fishing is my main occupation; that’s what I do here. As you can see I am just returning from the ocean. If you go into the ocean you will find the thick slick of crude oil floating, tossed here and there by the waves. It is spreading according to the direction of the current. That is what we are seeing even right here at the waterside on St. Nicholas.

As a fisherman, one of the things I know about this crude oil is that, apart from killing aquatic life, it chases away the fishes that used to be around. If our nets get in contact with the crude oil it will stain the nets and, because of the smell and colour, fish will notice and avoid such nets in the water. You can see the little catch that I returned with. This is not how it used to be. Our efforts are yielding far below expectation these days.

 

Ayeomane Ayela

Actually we started noticing this crude oil on the Atlantic a week ago. But it came ashore about two days ago. Oil spills affect our fishing and, this one is not an exception. We used to catch enough fish before but it is difficult now. I go into the ocean almost every day and, since we began experiencing this spill we have been unhappy. If you had come when we had full tide, you would have noticed the crude oil slick all around the waterside. Now the water has ebbed, though you can still see signs of crude oil at the water front. We are not happy because it takes extra effort to avoid the slick from contaminating our fishing nets. Once your net has stains of crude oil fishes will run away from the net because they will see it. As you can see we are powerless; we cannot order the government on what to do.

But I think a responsible government should be able to appreciate our plight and assist us. Because of this kind of situation we are becoming debtors as we hardly even meet up the payment of the fuel we use for our ocean-going boats. We want Shell to clean up the spill and compensate us for loss of livelihood. Our business has been impacted. Bonga fish that used to come to the surface are no more. The company should not deny us of our Bonga with their Bonga Facility.

 

OBSERVATION/CONCLUSION

In the course of the field visit, ERA/FoEN noticed the spread of the spill continued to Fish Camp 2, behind the community and by the entrance of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas joins the Atlantic Ocean from this point. However, even before visiting Fish Camp 2, the surface of the river showed signs of the slick sheen everywhere. Apart from what was observed in the Ocean, crude oil slick was noticed coming into St. Nicholas.

ERA DEMANDS:

  1. The Nigerian government compel Shell to state the actual amounts of oil spewed from its facility.
  2. We demand that Shell also reveal the names and types of chemical dispersants used in fighting the spill.
  3. More importantly, the Nigerian government, in addition to carrying out an independent investigation of Shell’s claims that only 40,000 barrels of crude was spewed, should make the company pay adequately for the damage done to Odioma Community folks and other communities along the Atlantic coast of the Niger Delta affected.
  4. An independent verification and cleaning up of existing mess (all over the Niger Delta) onshore and offshore should be the focus of NOSDRA and other regulatory agencies.

5. The international community, especially environmental and rights related groups should join in this just cause to defend the environment and li

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