The attention of the Management of the Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency (OSEPA) has been drawn to the Press Release by one ”Engr. Jide Akinyeye”, the Federal Mines Officer (FMO) of Ondo State on the recent visit of OSEPA Monitoring team to some land degraded sites in Akure.
In the said press release, the FMO described the Agency (OSEPA) as “Interlopers” getting involved in undue interference in “Mines” which is is the exclusive right of the Federal Government.
OSEPA as a responsible Agency of the Ondo State Government will not ordinarily want to trade words with the Federal Mines Officer in Ondo State, however, there is need to enlighten him (the FMO) on the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 (the Law that regulates all aspects of solid minerals exploration and exploitation in Nigeria) as it relates to the roles given to the State Governments by the said Law.
First and foremost, Section 19 (1-3) of the Mining Act stipulates the composition and the duties of the State Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO), saddled with the responsibility of discussing, considering and advising the Minister on matters affecting pollution and degradation of any land in Ondo State where mineral is being extracted and the implementation of social and environmental protection measures.
Sub section 2(g) of Section 19 listed the Agency (Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency) as statutorily member of the Committee. It is therefore out of ignorance that the FMO described the Agency as Interlopers.
Section 18 (d) of the Mining Act stated that as part of the functions of the Mine Environmental Compliance Department is to liaise with relevant agencies of Government with respect to the social and environmental issues involved in mining operations, mine closure and reclamation of land.
It is however noteworthy that the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals in Ondo State have failed woefully in carrying out this responsibility, thus creating a wide vacuum in environmental protection in the State.
In addition, Section 71 (1) a listed some of the pre-conditions for commencement of developmental work or extraction of mineral resources (including sand excavation) without the conduct of
Environmental Impact Assessment studies and mitigation plans required under the extant environmental laws and regulations. Most of the sites visited by the Agency where sand excavations were being carried out could not produce any evidence of having EIA for the
activities being done.
Section 4 (d) of the Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency Law
1993 empowers the Agency to ensure the compliance of any developmental project with Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
and other permits/regulations guiding development.
This particular Section of the OSEPA Law 1993 confers on the Agency the right to demand for the EIA of any developmental project in the State. It is also to protect the State Environment from all forms of pollutions and degradation.
Therefore, the monitoring team of the Agency have acted within the armbit of the Law. It will interest the public to know that Section 118 (a & b) of the same Mining Act 2007 makes it compulsory (as environmental obligation) for every holder of a mineral title to minimize, manage and mitigate any environmental impact resulting from activities carried out under the Mining Act. The Section also makes it mandatory the degraded sites must be rehabilitated and reclaimed to its natural state.
It is disturbing that the level of damage done to the State environment
through indiscriminate land excavation of sand far beyond the permissible and acceptable level in the 18 LGAs of is very huge. This situation has caused serious gully erosion and flooding in some parts of the State which have posed serious threats to the entire ecosystem.
The Ondo State Environmental Protection Agency has the mandate by
Law to safeguard the State’s environment. Therefore, the Agency will not tolerate any deviation from extant regulations and operational guidelines to sand excavation activities in Ondo State.
OSEPA will never fold its hands and allow some destructive elements destroy the environment, lives and properties of the citizens of Ondo State as a result of sand extraction activities.