Benue mine collapse - OPID News

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Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Benue mine collapse

 Benue mine collapse

•It’s time to put regulations in place to save miners’ lives

Incessant mine collapse has claimed many lives in many parts of the country owing to poor regulation of the sector. Last week, a mine in Logo Local Government Area of Benue State collapsed and reportedly claimed at least three lives, with others injured. This is worrisome as those killed were Nigerians seeking to put food on the table. This has raised many questions concerning safety measures at the numerous mine sites across the country and the capacity of the regulatory authorities. It is unfortunate that local and state authorities are reported to have felt unconcerned by the plight of the bereaved families, as well as the health of the injured. This has been attributed to the rift between federal and state governments over control of the mining activities. While the Federal Government has used the constitution to effectively fence the states off control of the sector, citing the powers vested on it by the 1999 Constitution that lists it as exclusive to the central government, states have continued to argue that, since land is a residual matter expressly vested in it by the Land Use Act, all that is on and under the land should be vested on the sub-national government.

In the instant case, operators of the Benue mine were said to have refused state or local authorities’ involvement in regulating their activities. All attempts by the Benue State governor who sent two of his commissioners to meet with the artisanal miners were effectively rebuffed.

In spite of this, however, the local authorities ought to have ensured adequate treatment for the injured and that state agencies were involved in rescue efforts. While the miners might have erred earlier, when lives are at grave risk, all reservations should be set aside since those involved were human beings. Besides, those who fenced off the government were not the artisans trapped by the collapse, they are the big men pressing buttons and supervising the mines from the federal capital city.

It is surprising that the Federal Government that has failed to shed weight in terms of reducing the powers conferred on it under the exclusive legislative list of the constitution has also failed to fully tap the solid mineral resources of the country as well as regulate the sector being exploited by free agents, many of whom are foreigners. It is thus obvious that the Federal Government has its hands so full that it might not bother to perform the role expected of it. The National Assembly members, who are products of the states, should ensure that the on-going constitutional amendment cures the grundnorm of this of the many ills. The decision to make Nigeria a Federal Republic was made consciously by the founding fathers who negotiated the terms of engagement. It is grossly unfair to saddle the states with taking care of the environment, but rob them of the power to exercise the needed authority over the process.

This does not apply to the Benue mines alone. In Zamfara and Niger states, lead poisoning has claimed many lives, especially of children. By 2016, no less than 400 children were said to have died due to lead poisoning. Since then, many more have succumbed to the effect of the crude mining process in the states. Human rights bodies and doctors without frontiers have repeatedly called on the Federal Government to take the welfare of those working on the sites more seriously. It is high time the lawmakers stepped in by inviting the ministries and agencies involved to explain what has been done or is being done to correct the anomalies. This is an interim measure pending when states would take full control.

The lives and livelihoods of Nigerians should be taken more seriously by those saddled with the responsibility and whoever fails in this respect should be sanctioned. EDITORIA, THE NATION

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