NEWS

CISLAC Berates Human Rights Violation Of Host Communities In Extractive Sector

…Recommends Adoption, Implementation Of National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights

By Progress Godfrey, Abuja

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has described as condemnable, the deplorable standard of living of host communities as a result of activities carried out by local and multinational companies in the extractive sector in Nigeria.

Investigative visits carried out by CISLAC in partnership with Global Rights and Open Society Foundation, through investigative journalists to host communities in the extractive sector shows that between the period of  September 2019 and August 2021, it had a total number of 150 cases reported by different media outfits.

Unveiling of investigative report from some host communities within the extractive sector.

A breakdown of the stories by media outfits revealed that ‘The Punch’ reported a total of 18 stories, among other s.

Number of stories by media outfits. Courtesy: CISLAC

Similarly, Rivers State recorded the highest number of cases.

Number of cases per state. Courtesy: CISLAC

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja Wednesday, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani advocated for the adoption and implementation of a National Action plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights in Nigeria which is an integrated and systematic national strategy to help realize the advancement of human rights in Nigeria; “it is an audit of the human rights situation in Nigeria, identifying areas in need of protection and improvement”.

Rafsanjani further explained that demonstrating respect for human rights has gone beyond just a matter between state and citizens; “it is now seen as a corporate responsibility critical to a company’s license to operate, entrenched by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“Under the Protect, Respect and Remedy framework of the Guiding Principle, States have a duty to protect human rights but businesses are also expected to respect the ‘entire’ spectrum of internationally recognized human rights wherever they operate, to avoid infringing on the human rights of others and to address adverse human rights impacts,” he said.

He commended the efforts of all stakeholders towards advocating for the promotion of human rights within the business sector, while stating the expedient need for government to put in even more effort towards prevention, investigation, punishment and providing redress to victims through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication.

Mining Challenges

Nigeria’s abundant solid minerals constitute some of the largest known deposits under different categories made up of precious metals, stones and industrial minerals like coal, tin, gold, marble, limestone and others (EITI, 2015). While mining holds the potential of prospering their host communities when done in a sustainable manner, Nigeria’s extractive industry is froth with numerous problems including fiscal injustice, environmental degradation, proliferation of abandoned open mining pits, the vulnerability of women, children and disabled persons to rights violation, water and air pollution, negative impacts on traditional livelihoods, destruction of ecosystem and security challenges.

A polluted water unfit for human and animal consumption due to mining activities in Ogbagba (Ile-Ife South, Osun state) courtesy: CISLAC

Some of these problems were glaring in the host communities visited in Kogi and Osun State respectively. Environmental degradation as a result of mining activities in communities such as Awowo Akpali and Onupi in Kogi State and Ogbagba in Osun State has led to erosion, destruction of soil and farmlands, contamination/pollution of their water which has led to illnesses and death amongst residents. In addition, during discussions with various community leaders on their plight, “our” journalists also found out that residents of these communities are barely employed by these companies and those who are employed, are given very menial or low paying jobs without considering their qualifications.

Despite complaints from community leaders and representatives of these communities to the various companies operating within these communities, the companies have done very little to provide redress and the communities are looking up to the government to hold these companies accountable.

Oil Exploration Challenges

The Niger Delta region is rich in alluvial soil, mangroves, heavy presence of fertile soil coupled with abundant linkages of fresh and salt-water bodies which provide the necessary incentives for the people who are predominantly farmers and fishermen. Oil exploration has been on for more than six decades in the Niger Delta and has left the host communities in this region in a high state of poverty. Several households have been displaced; the environment has been left degraded as a result of oil spills, regular flaring of harmful gases into the environment and discharge of industrial water into streams and rivers. All these have led to loss of livelihood, poor agricultural yields in this communities and massive death of fish and aquatic organisms.

A fisherman toiling day and night for a catch in a polluted water in Ogoniland (River State) Courtesy: CISLAC

For more than five decades, oil has been Nigeria’s leading export. 90% of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from revenue accruing from crude oil sales. As at December 2020, production of crude oil in Nigeria was 1,174 thousand barrels per day. Though it fluctuated substantially in recent months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and global lockdown which affected oil production globally and the price of oil fell, the nation’s GDP is still dependent on oil and gas production. Unfortunately, the communities which play host to oil and gas in the country have remained very backward in development and economic viability.

Some of the above mentioned issues were glaring once again in communities such as Bodo, Goi and Aggah communities of River State and Odual Community in Bayelsa State.

The CISLAC Boss further recommended the establishment of a National Working Group on Business and Human Rights which he said, will coordinate activities of agencies that are involved in dealing with human rights and business related issues as contained in the draft ‘National Action Plan’.

He also recommended the creation of a Directorate of Human Rights and Business by the National Human Rights Commission. In line with the provisions of the draft NAP, this he said, will be an actionable item by the Federal Government in performing its duty to protect the rights of citizens and address business related human rights issues, elaborating that, “the Directorate is to be headed by a Director and will act as the secretariat of the National Working Group on Business and Human Right (NWGBHR). The Chairperson shall be the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission while the secretary of the NWGBHR shall be the director of business and human rights at the National Human Rights Commission.”

Furthermore, he recommended that businesses conduct “Human Rights Due Diligence” from the onset to measure possible impact both negative and positive of their operations on a host community and also highlight how they intend to mitigate those impacts.

“The NAP should provide comprehensive details on what this human rights due diligence entails and mechanisms that should be put in place. In light of this, CISLAC in partnership with various stakeholders has developed a draft cohesive human rights due diligence document in that regard which could be incorporated into the draft National Action Plan. This document has been handed over to the NHRC, ” Rafsanjani added.

Other recommendations are, “Community Development. Community development is a matter of right and should not be seen by companies as doing favours to the community. Development is a human right as recognized by the United Nations and other international and national organs therefore; government should ensure that they are targeted towards mitigating the negative impact of business activities. Such developments by companies should not be a replacement or substitute for government obligation towards communities.

“Access to Remedy. Nigerians should be aware that remedy mechanisms exist. Access to effective remedy to communities or persons who are victims of human rights violations in the course of business should be made available. In furtherance of this, CISLAC operates an Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) which receives complaints of corruption and human rights violations from victims or witnesses, forwards to relevant authorities and follows-up with them to ensure that redress is gotten and issues resolved. Free legal advice is also offered, all services are free. The centre has so far recorded a total number of 118 clients with 45 cases resolved.”

 

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