Mining Without Compensation: Untold Woes Of Enugu Community

In Breaking News, Investigation

By Ben Aroh, The Whistler

Ben Aroh, in this investigative report, explores how farmlands and cash crops of Ezuruike, an agrarian suburb of Ezimo-Agu in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, were destroyed without compensation in 2019 by Queensec GlobalResources Limited, an unlicensed coal mining company.

Tales of Woes

Emenike Nnadi is from Amadin Clan which owns a part of the land on which Queensec constructed some kilometers of winding road to the coal site.

“Queensec destroyed many of our palm and cashew trees without compensation. Our major sources of revenue come from these trees. But since the company came in disguise, life has been difficult. They should compensate us. Some of us who depended on the proceeds are presently beggars. We were not carried along,” he said.

Chinedu Nnaji is also a victim. He said, “The road passed through my plots of land. It had some cashew trees which by now would have been yielding proceeds. I am still in at shock how a company could do all this without following established rules.”

Nnamdi Okafor said he was swindled by some landowners to buy land around the mining site. According to him, “The sellers made the land so cheap that I couldn’t resist it. I bought two plots. One of them was affected during this road construction.”

Ezuruike As Scapegoat 

THE WHISTLER’s investigation revealed that the Ezuruike settlement is a part of Ezimo-Agu autonomous community. It shares boundaries with Umuosigide autonomous community. At the inception of the mining exercise, it was thought that the site, situated in a waterway, belonged to Ezururike, thus the natives had anticipated proceeds as hosts. It was however during the excavation that it was discovered that it belonged to Umuosigide, hence Ezuruike and Ezimo-Agu as a whole have no stake, except being the route to the site.

The road that destroyed economic trees

I Didn’t Give Queensec Consent Letter – Traditional Ruler

Igwe Brendan Ogbu is the traditional ruler of Ezimo-Agu autonomous community. He said, “The company came to me. They said there was a coal deposit at Ezuruike. They expressed interest. I told them that we have two traditional rulers. They met my second, and I never saw them again. Sometime later, a native of Ezuruike came and complained about how their cashew and palm trees were destroyed during the road construction to the site. And there was no record. I told the construction company that they would not use that road until after the compensation to the owners was paid. Some lists of the affected owners were compiled.

“But by then they had constructed the road. I later heard that the exploration had started at Ezuruike. I sent our vigilantes to check. It was discovered that the location of the mining was not in Ezimo. I called the heads of the village of the area. They confirmed that the land belongs to Umuosigide. I kept quiet.

“In between this, another company called Exodus had come to explore coal in another location in Ezimo. I told them to go to the concerned ministries and agencies in Enugu to get the power to explore. They later came with their equipment, and not quite long, they were suspended. I was called to Enugu, and there, I was suspended from being Igwe. The community then established its mineral resources committee, of which I am not a member. So I ceased to partake in anything mining.

“In the present circumstance, I wouldn’t have done much because I am banned from partaking in mineral resources matters. For compensation, nothing is being said. Over seventy persons are victims. We called Queensec, and they promised to settle the compensation. Nothing has happened till date.”

Igwe Remy Nwodo is the traditional ruler of Umuosigide community. He said, “I didn’t give Queensec any consent letter. They came, and we wanted to have a community development agreement with them. It started with the cabinet members. We had a committee. The first agreement was done, and when matters of the landowners came, we had to do another. At the time of signing, we didn’t hear from them again. The coal is in the land of Umu Adonu Clan. I don’t know their agreement, but I guess they agreed with the landowners to mine. I did tell them that the due process must be followed. The Environmental Impact Assessment should be done.

“If they claim I gave them any consent letter, let them come up with proof. People raise allegations against me. I know the first thing that should be done is exploration before mining. I heard about compensation, and the law said it. They were allowed to construct the road without compensation!”

Excavated coal

Queensec May Not Have The Licence – Insider

An insider who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that, “From their body language, Queensec is illegal. That is why they created the access road from Ezuruike instead of   Umuosigide which is closer to the major road. They sought our consent letter, with the aim of going to Abuja to obtain the licence afterwards. Their goal is to exploit, make money, and run away. Their equipment, I guess, is all leased.”

The source, who said he participated in the failed negotiation between Queensec and the Umuosigide community, said, “When they came, they organized the elders at Igwe’s palace, and wrote agreements. But when some of us became aware, we insisted the proper thing be done.

We came up with an agreement to ensure that the interest of all was covered. We demanded their license and also the consent form because we didn’t give them a consent letter. The truth is that landowners must give them the consent because the land is not a communal land. Again, it was Ezimo who gave them the consent, thinking that it was in their land. We later decided to continue with the consent they already had. The preconditions before mining were told to them.

“They agreed, including the Environmental Impact Assessment, Community Development Agreements, and the extent they are to mitigate the impact of the mining on the land, including compensation. They were also told to involve all the relevant state and federal agencies. They told us that they had compensated the landowners. It was rumored that they had given some money to the owners of damaged trees.

“The agreement was ongoing, and at a point, it appeared that we had gotten to the level of signing. At that point, the real owners of the land came up with their private agenda. Hitherto, we were marrying the whole thing with their interest. The company, I heard, later approached them, and they began to discuss it on their own. They wrote a different agreement, where the landowners placed their own demands.”

A native of the clan, one Solomon, said, “Yes, nobody has been compensated. But tell those affected to be ready. Once Queensec returns to work, I know they will be settled. The company is really engulfed in problems. We did give them the consent letter. But the negotiation started with our traditional ruler. The best thing is for those whose economic trees and farmlands were destroyed to approach the company together.

“Presently, caterpillars and other vehicles belonging to Queensec, which were captured at the mining site, are still at Obollo-Afor Police Station. Security operatives from the state arrested them and sealed the site when Queensec planned to evacuate coal. I guess they did not follow the due process. Our clan wants them to follow the due process to mitigate future ecological disasters. We wanted them to conduct EIA, but they refused.”

The sealed route to the illegal mining site

In Defence Of Queensec

Efforts to hear from Queensec were not successful. Although their phone numbers rang severally for many days, nobody responded. Facts from ng.check.com show that Queensec Global Resources Limited, Queensec for short, is a registered company with RC number 1455614. It was registered on 28 Nov 2017, with an office address at 4, Kado Bimkom, First Avenue, Gwarinpa, Abuja. It has stakes in general contracts and merchandise.

Queendaline Augustine is the director with other directors as Queendaline Aghananti Augustine, Musa Mohammed Owuna, Danlami Ogya Augustine, Jimoh Sunday Zuberu, and Justina Augustine as secretary. Queendaline Augustine is the deponent.

One of the senior employees of the construction company, on condition of anonymity, said, “The things damaged were recorded. What is remaining is the compensation. They employed five persons from Ezimo, others from Obollo. They have been working and spending a lot to create the road access since 2019. They wanted to market some of the products to generate funds to settle those whose farmlands were affected. In the process, they were arrested. They lost over N36m. The land was given to them by the landowners. The company is ready to settle whatever was destroyed once they resolve their current setback.”      

Trapped vehicle at the site

Barr Benedict Odo is the company’s legal adviser. He said, “The company is yet to make profits from the venture. I advise those affected to tarry. When the site begins to yield income, the affected natives can then put up claims. The economic trees and the land values should be stated. Anything untoward now is adding salt to injuries. A lot has been spent, and nothing has been reaped from it. The company is a corporate body, and you can engage lawyers to address the issues involved appropriately. I urge the affected people to exercise some patience because we are sorting it out with the state government.”

Queensec Operating Illegally – State Government

Around January 19, 2024, it became clear that Queensec was operating illegally. The company had mobilized trucks to evacuate coal already excavated. The intelligence report got to the state government.

Dr Kingsley Nnaji is the Special Adviser on Energy and Solid Mineral Resources to the state governor. He led a team of security operatives that sealed off the site and arrested some individuals and equipment.

He said, “Following a tip-off, the state government got to know that illegal mining activities were still going on at some sites, hence it embarked on monitoring. The government is not against genuine investors but frowns at illegal ones who have caused havoc to the state, got the environment degraded, and polluted streams from which people fetch water to drink.

The mining site

“They violated court orders against illegal mining in Enugu State issued two months ago. The state government gave another order to confiscate the vehicles found at illegal sites. We are clamping down on illegal miners. We are open to legitimate businesses. There is a procedure that must be followed.” 

The Nigerian Mining Act states in its Part V, Section 71, that, “No work shall commence until after the conclusion of Community Development Agreement approval by Mines Environmental Compliance Department and the holder has duly notified, compensated or offered compensation to all users of the land within the Mineral Lease Areas provided for under the Act or in the event of a dispute after the matter has been resolved by arbitration.”

This report was published with the support from Civic Media Lab

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