By Sylvia Felix
Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization says consistency in sensitizing the people of Mfamosing, Akamkpa Local Government Area, one of the host communities of cement manufacturer, Lafarge Holcim is key in ensuring beneficial ownership and don’t suffer from the proverbial resource curse.
Beneficial ownership in the extractive industry means the right of individuals or groups (host communities) to enjoy benefits from the activities of businesses while resource curse refers to a situation in which a country, nation, state, or geographical area underperforms economically, despite being home to valuable natural resources.
Tijah Bolton-Akpan, the Executive Director of Policy Alert, said the cement giant has only been sucking from the people with little or no benefits to the community who bear the brunt, especially health challenges, of their operations.
“Our responsibility as an intervening organization is exactly what we are doing here. We have come here with the data to present to the community what is in the records of this company operating here. Lafarge has been operating in this community milling limestones and extracting valuable resources from the community,” Bolton-Akpan said during an awareness campaign in the community.
He continued, “We have been coming here over the past couple of months interrogating some of their social realities, tracking, and we have done Nigeria’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) public report which documents what the company is claiming to have paid in terms of social payment, health, education, and other community empowerment activities to the community.
“In most cases, what plays out is the phenomenon of the resource cost and such communities end up being plagued by poverty, conflict, environmental degradation.”
The program is in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). And, Mfon Gabriel, who is the Program Officer in charge of energy, extractive, and climate change for the NGO said, the gesture is “to empower them, build their capacity for them to know their right and legal provision that supports their right.”
The community members in their response accused the cement manufacturer of not being truthful.
“Lafarge has not given us any support, our people are dying from the dust emanating from the cement and this dust has also killed our farm produce,” Mr. Asuquo Akpan, a representative of the Akwa Ibom community in Mfamosing said.
Akpan described the manufacturer as, “a bad company,” that is, “praying for everyone to die, so they can continue in their hunt for limestones.”
For Mr. Francis Bassey, representative of the Abi-Mfan community, the manufacturer had influenced other organizations in a way that made them to stop coming to their aid. He cited the case of the Nigerian Red Cross Society whom, according to him, visited, assured them of assistance but never returned.