Owukpa Coal Mine: Benue Deputy Governor Visits Site, Calls for Peace to Attract Investors

Benue State Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu has stressed the need for peaceful atmosphere to enable investors tap the abundant natural resources available in the state for the benefit of our people.
He spoke at Owukpa, Ogbadibo local government area, when he led the investigative committee set up by Governor Samuel Ortom to investigate allegations of illegal mining in Owukpa on an assessment visit to the area.
He enjoined all stakeholders and parties in the disagreement that led to the suspension of mning activities by the state government to embrace peace and create the enabling environment for the mining company to continue its work, stressing that the mining activity offers the community multiple socio-economic benefits, such as employment, boost in economic activities and value addition through corporate social responsibilities.
Engr. Abounu, who restated government’s zero tolerance for companies that will not live to its corporate social responsibilities to the community where they operate, however called on the people in Owukpa who have issues with the operation of the mining company to embrace dialogue rather than violent confrontation.
At the mining site, the deputy governor directed the company to ensure timely reclamation of every area they excavate in the course of their work to prevent runoff from the debris contaminating the stream down the valley.
He also ordered the evacuation of the coal deposited at the premises of Owukpa Community Secondary School, and the relocation of the school to another area to be provided by the Owukpa Development Association (ODA) in consultation with Ada Ogbadibo and other chiefs.
An environmentalist, whose petition triggeted the protest that led to the suspension of mining activities, Dr. Sadiq Okoh accused the company of environmental degradation; of using substandard equipment in its operations; of failure to abide by the agreement entered into with the community and of contaminating the community source of drinking water; charges denied by the company.
National chairman of ODA, Elder Peter Akor (rtd CSP) said the company has operated for only 6 months, within which they have not defaulted in the monetised payment of their corporate social responsibilities as well as in road rehabilitation. He denied misapropriating money paid by the company and disclosed that all payments by the company are made directly into the account of the association.
The deputy governor and members of his committee had earlier paid a courtesy visit on the Ada Ogbadibo and Onomo of Owukpa. Chief Emmanuel Odeh, who told them the community has no issues with the mining company, and that the protest by some youths in the area was instigated by one of their sons, who chooses to distance himself from what happens at home.
Chief Odeh appealed to his people to be patient with the company and allow the ODA be the liaison between them and the community, assuring that they will not fail them.
He called on Dr. Sadiq to avail the community of his expertise in environmental issues so that they can benefit maximally from the mining operations instead of instigating youths to carry out unnecessary protest.
The Committee is expected to submit its report to Governor Samuel Ortom within two weeks. On the visit with the governor were the state Head of Service, Mrs Veronica Onyeke, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr.

Michael Gusa, Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Col. Paul Hemba (rtd) and other top government functionaries.

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