BY ISAAC OLUSESI
In Nigeria, Covid-19 world lockdown had its other side in State of Osun. In the blankness of the day and stillness of the night, the illegal miners kowtowed to the Osun mining sites like the Biblical “thief in the night” and robbed the state of its gold, that almost also collapsed our collective patrimony, the Osun investment heaven of mining titles. But Osun is neither out for wreak nor revenge because the offence against it is not personal.
Illegal miners, caught red handed, are said to be well connected in status and wealth, all of them, the outlawry in paradigmatic crime, the severity of which included the unethical, unfair advantage accrued to them over the law abiding counterpart citizens of Osun; the moral imbalance caused these other citizens; the damage done to their immediate victims, the mining communities of the Ife/Ijesa axis of the state; and the strains, the stresses on the adaptive capacity of Osun government.
The communities-Ifewara, Iperindo and Itagunmodi, tucked away triangularly, are rural areas with reputation that has traveled faster than all the cities in Osun put together. How? The agrarian communities have quality mineral resources including gold decked inside their soil, and are so peaceful, not to resort to lynching, blood feud and any vigilante self-help, sort of mass protest, to avenge the offence of illegal mining of their value heirdom. And Osun government, the roof owner of the gold is not asking for “an eye for an eye,”; lex talionis, retaliation or the Biblical “measure for measure”, middah ke-neged -the ancient Jews retributive tradition in the law of Moses. Yes! Osun is not wanting to subscribe to the Code of Hummrabi.
Osun government is
rather determined to rid the state of illegal mining activities that have led the state into the abyss of environmental degradation and permitted open corruption in the communities, with reckless abandon, unchecked until the illegality came to the pore. The government is more resolute to combat the virus of illegal mining because its superstructure corruption is not only morally reprehensible, it also distorts incentives at sustaining conducive mining investment environment to drive Osun prosperity, increases the cost of doing business (CDB) and disheartens the most courageous foreign investors from entering into viable and mutually beneficial business investment cooperation with Osun.
In the post Covid-19 Osun New Economy (ONEC), the state government is pressing for the procedural application of retributive legal standards in the matter to give teeth to the societal solidarity against other citizens’ preferment for illegal mining activities should the illegal miners, be allowed to get away with their lawlessness. Meaning that retributive justice, needed in the gap, is all about law; it is about punishment of the guilty and compensation for the victim. If the illegal miners are not punished, known to law, then justice is not done; and if justice is not done, then the law itself is defeated and the social benefits of crime detection and punishment, crime deterrence and reduction, with the balance of unethical advantage cornered by the culprits reclaimed and restore to the society, to validate how individuals, the mighty and the lowly ought to act or behave in the society, become a mirage.
Beyond legality or illegality, the mining communities’ Baales, the village heads had applied their efforts in less helpful way by their receptive attitudes towards illegal miners. The Baales’ compromise or so it seems and their lack of a sense of voice to issue an early warning on illegal mining activities in their domains to facilitate organized community actions against illegal miners, sounding alarm in time to the government had placed limitations on the communities’ resilience and complicated matters for the state government.
Osun still holds a lot of promises out for direct foreign investments in mining, with Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s determination to halt the resultant “negative implications of environmental degradation in the state,” caused by all kinds of strip, open mining, that has now left behind so many environmental destructive open pits, deep and large, and created a uniquely dangerous set of environmental impact, considered critical to the revival of the state mining economy. And Oyetola, out of his utilitarian fear of severity of the impact of environmental degradation on the livelihoods of the poor who heavily depend on land, is more decisive at reversing the communities’ degraded forest resources, degraded public health, degraded cultures, social and artifacts, degraded livelihoods, degraded waters, degraded entertaining wild life and degraded migration routes.
Oyetola is pained that the gold communities have potentials to become food baskets of Osun but presently are facing daunting call outs, challenges on environmental degradation; and he’s more pained that the numbers of people likely to be affected by environmental degradation will be higher because the people residing outside the degraded areas depend on the continued flow of ecosystem goods and services from the degraded areas. He’s even more concerned that his government might be held responsible by some cynical publics for environmental degradation in the state were the illegal miners not rounded up to return the degraded environments to their naturalness and pay for damages on encroachment on the communities’ livelihoods, material, physical, psychological deprivations and prejudices suffered by the native people.
Let the skeptical publics understand that mining comes under the exclusive legislative list. Recovery of degraded areas is planned according to the National Environment Policy (Law 6.938/1981) as amended. And article 225 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “conduct and activities deemed harmful to the environment will subject violators, individuals or entities to penal and administrative sanctions, independent of the obligation to repair damages.”
Implying, reclamation is a phase embedded in mining procedures not detached. The hidden luxury? Land security, population density, market access and rule of law as major factors in environmental degradation, with prohibitive technical and financial issues, including high costs of inaction and higher cost of returns to taking actions against environmental degradation are a significant constraint to the adaptive capacity of Osun to cope with environmental degradation hazards centered paradigms. Tasking!
Really tasking enough, to disarticulate the emerging Osun New Economy (ONEC) of huge socio-economic transformations as aftermath of the post COVID-19 investments in mining and its market potentials; but Oyetola has the mojo, magic wands to stem any such disarticulation. And even the force of law, mining-reclamation intrinsic relationship and the luxury of land reclamation put the onus on the federal government to compel land recovery after finishing mining activities.
— OLUSESI is Assistant Director, Publicity, Research & Strategy, APC,