Cross River National Park
The National Park in Oban, Cross River state is threatened with extinction following the license issued to two mining firms by the Federal Government to operate in the restricted area.
Now the park is endangered as both legal and illegal miners have invaded the preserved reserved national park..
In a document on Monday signed by the Executive Director of We the People (WTP), Mr. Ken Henshaw and the Executive Director of Development Concerns (DEVCON), Dr. Martins Egot,
expressed fears that if such mining license is not withdrawn immediately, in the next two years the park may go extinct.
Dr. Egot who presented the position of the two NGOS, said, “We have recently become aware that the ministry of Mines and Steel Development has granted Mining rights to two companies: Abdulsaraq & Co. International Mining Limited and Vintage Mining and Exploration Limited to carry out mining activities in the area of the National Park against all existing laws and regulations”.
The NGOs said, “the National Park Service Act (2006) unequivocally underscore that national parks are sanctuaries meant exclusively for the propagation, protection and management of vegetation and wildlife. Notably, Section 22 of the Act delineates the functions of Management Committees, reinforcing the exclusive dedication of national parks to the propagation, protection and management of vegetation and wildlife.
“Section 29 clearly makes an offence for any unauthorised person to go into the National Park without the permission of the Conservator-General”.
They further argued that “mining activities are explicitly prohibited in section 30(1) of the Act” which says, “a person who, unless authorised to do so under this Act or the regulations under this Act, carries out an undertaking connected with forestry, agriculture, grazing or excavation or does any leveling of the ground or construction or any act tending to alter the configuration of the soil or the character of the vegetation; or does an act likely to disturb the fauna or flora; or engages in drilling, mining, prospecting or exploration of any kind of natural resources.. Is guilty of an offence”.
Similarly, they said, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (2007) which serves as the key legislation on mineral exploration and exploitation in Nigeria also prohibits mining activities in the National Park. Section 3(1)(d) of the Mining Act “explicitly bars mineral activities in areas under the purview of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments Act or the National Parks Service Act”, hence “no mineral title granted under this Act shall authorize reconnaissance, exploration or exploitation of mineral resources on, or in, or the erection of beacons on or the occupation of any land.
“That is subject to the provisions of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments Act, Cop Nl9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and the National Parks Service Act, Cap. N65, laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“With these two compelling legislative instruments, each banning mining activities in the National Park, one wonders why mining is currently going on in the Cross River National Park. One also wonders the extent to which the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development responsible for issuing mining rights can rightfully supersede the jurisdiction of the Ministry vested with environmental conservation”.
The purpose of the National Park Service according to them “is to ensure ecological preservation, a purpose that fundamentally contradicts any form of mining within its precincts. In the case of Abdulrasaq & Co Intl Mining Limited’s and Vingate Mining and Exploration limited, there is no evidence that the two companies were granted any pemlit to enter the National Park in line with Sections 30 and 51 of the National Pork Service Act, talk less of mining in it”.
They argued that, “there is no doubt that permitting mining activities in the National Park will seriously impact the ecosystem and destroy the essence of conservation, while opening the forest to other risks including wildlife hunting and logging.
“Accordingly, we demand the “the immediate revocation of the mining lease granted to Abdulrasaq & Co International Mining Limited and Vintage Mining and Exploration Limited within Cross River National Park Oban Sector Forest. This step is essential to halt any ongoing mining activities and prevent further ecological degradation.
“Relevant security agencies should be moblised to vacate mining operatives from the mining sites.
“An independent and thorough Environmental Impact Assessment should be conducted on the affected area. This assessment will determine the extent of damage already caused by the mining activities and provide basis for appropriate remediation measures
“The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, responsible for granting the mining lease without proper authorization, should face appropriate sanctions for this breach. This will serve as a deterrent against future violations and emphasize the significance of adherence to legal protocols”.
They further stated that consideration should be given to enhancing legal oversight mechanisms to prevent potential conflict between ministries and uphold the sanctity of protected areas. This could involve revisiting and refining the coordination protocols between relevant ministries.
“Local communities surrounding Cross River National Park Oban Sector Forest should he actively engaged in the conservation efforts. Their input and cooperation are vital for the effective protection of the park an its sustainable management.
“The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulations should be reviewed and strengthened to ensure that there are no ambiguities in granting mining licenses within protected areas. Clear and unambiguous provisions will help prevent future conflicts”, they added.
On compensation and remediation, the NGOs said, “if the Environmental Impact Assessment reveals significant ecological damage. appropriate compensation and remediation measures should be undertaken. This will help restore the affected ecosystem to its original state as much as possible”.
Commenting, Henshaw said, “if nothing is done urgently, next thing people will go in freely and begin to kill the elephants, lions and other endangered species and in next two years the park will be invaded.
“We see a very dangerous trend emerging and this is the first time we have seen threat to the forest driven by the Federal Government. I fear for the level of devastation going on there now and if nothing is done we will take the relevant authorities to court”.
On his part, Dr. Egot said, “for now the Ofumkpa community is directly affected as last week over 100 persons suspected to be from the northern part of the country have entered the reserved forest and other communities like Owali are threatened”.