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ECO-SOCIO RIGHTS

 CITIZEN GABIN ASAN BENNEDICT SEEKS INFORMATION ON TOTAL ALLOCATIONS TO THE 23 LGs IN BENUE FROM 2007 -2013.

Anchoring his demand on the Freedom of Information Law  2011, Gabin Asan Bennedict has written to the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs  demanding information on total allocations to the 23 local governments in the State from 2007 to 2013.

Part of his letter to the Permanent Secretary of the Bureau reads

“In accordance with Section 1 and 2 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, I hereby apply to be furnished with adequate information regarding the following:

  1. The actual allocation accrual to the Twenty Three Local Governments of Benue State from the Federation Account since June 2007 to June 2013.
  2. The actual allocation accrual to the Twenty Three Local Governments of Benue State from the excess Crude Accounts since June 2007 to June 2013.
  3. The actual amount re-allocated to the Twenty Three Local Governments of Benue State by the Benue State Joint Accounts from earns of 1 and 2 above, from June 2007 to June 2013. “

Asan a Development worker and a Program officer with Lawyers Alert seeks the information to assist him in assessing development at these levels in his research on the impact of excess crude fund at the grassroots as per improved development or the lack of it.

Accountability and Transparency in Governance especially at the local government levels is one area where not much has been done in terms of studies or holding local Authorities accountable especially given the level of awareness by the electorate at that tier of governance.

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Zamfara: A Children Dying Field?
Every rainy season in the north western Nigeria State of Zamfara, at least 300 children die from lead poisoning owing to artisanal mining of Gold in the state.The Gold industry in Zamfara is large, in both geographic coverage and quantity. For eleven years, there has been artisanal and illegal mining of gold in at least three local government areas in the state, and the industry is rapidly growing, due to the interest of the private sector and the government.

In 2008, the Zamfara state government contracted the services of U.S.-based Greggs Gem and Mining Corp and a Chinese mining company, Gold Concentrator Company, to carry out a survey of the mining areas, and to assess the quantity and quality of the gold in the State.

Though the full report is yet to be released, preliminary reports indicated that gold is embedded in about three local government areas in commercial and exportable quantity. Though the full report is yet to be released owing to squabbles over money issues between the consultants and the government of Zamfara, it is noteworthy that shortly thereafter, the Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan officially commissioned the Zamfara Integrated Solid Minerals processing Plant in Gusau, the state capital with a Chinese Firm partnering the State government in the establishment of the Plant that will mine gold.

The President cautioned mining should be done in line with international standards and best practices.

The reverse has however been the case as mining is done with profits as the sole interest and not the protection of the locales nor their rights to safe environment.  The villages of Abare, Daji, and Sunke in the Anka local government area most affected.

The effects of excessive mining by foreign corporations and artisanal mining operations over the past eleven years have been detrimental to these villages and their local populations, especially with respect to the health and lives of the region’s children.

Every year from 2004 to date , reports of  deaths of as many as 300 children as a result of acute lead poisoning associated with gold mining operations have trickled in from various sources. The chief epidemiologist at the Zamfara State Ministry of Health puts the deaths at an average of 115 per year.

In 2010 for instance,  while National newspapers carried varying accounts they all were in agreement  on the enormous number of fatalities.   The Nigeria Tribune reported 215 deaths,The Punch reported 300, and the Daily Trust reported 278. Local populations put the number at over 300 children.

The Medicins Sans Frontieres,  MSF Briefing Paper of May 2012 titled  “Lead Poisoning Crisis in Zamfara State northern Nigeria” states the reason for peculiar effect on children  is because while  Adults and children over 5 are susceptible to lead toxicity,  children under 5 are especially vulnerable as they are closer to the ground than adults, and often crawl, getting dust on their hands, which then ends up being ingested as they eat with those dusty hands, or simply put their hands in their mouths.

The briefing paper states that Young children absorb higher percentages of ingested lead: around 40-50% compared to 10% in adults cause of ongoing development of vital organs in young children which makes them   more vulnerable to damage.

The private sector and government however have done very little in reversing the trend of deaths which spikes every rainy season when the ground is softer for digging and mining.

The financial returns is immense for government and the private sector. Since 2009, the price of gold has appreciated substantially, from around US$800 per ounce, to US$1653 (May 2012) resulting  in  increasingly active artisanal mining industry. Artisanal mining is essentially  digging  up rocks by hand, breaking them into pebbles with hammers, grinding the pebbles to sand with flour mills, and then extracting gold from the sand using sluicing, panning, and mercury amalgamation (and in some cases, cyanidation).

The Nigerian government, under the federal constitution, is obliged to observe, respect, provide for, and maintain civil society and public good in the form of services including—but not limited to—health and education.  Nigeria is one of the few countries in the developing world to have decentralized resource management where a great deal of responsibility lies with state and local community governments.  However, according to the World Bank “there is little systematic evidence on how these institutions… work in in Nigeria See. “Local Government Accountability for Service Delivery in Nigeria, The World Bank – Development Research Group (2004). Needless to add, Zamfara  shows a complete lack of responsibility of these obligations by government.

Lack of democratic tradition, public passivity, low environmental consciousness and knowledge, poor economic conditions, and widespread corruption are key causes of the situation. Poor governance has meant that companies operate with little involvement or inclusion of affected populations in processes relating to how business should be conducted in their communities. Lack of participation and information at every stage of the process paves the way for economic and social rights violations, including violations of the right to water, food, and land.

Unless civil society can actively participate and receive information on decisions and practices that ultimately affect their most basic needs, such as mining for instance, they are unable to exercise their rights. Civil Society must begin to  frame the human rights implications of natural resource exploitation as economic and social rights violations

3) Safer mining practices

As earlier stated, these are desirable but tall dreams as Government and the private sector is yet to appreciate or has refused to appreciate the tragedy of Zamfara, a blind state in Nigeria noted only for the introduction of Sharia.

So as the rainy season approaches, children will again become endangered species in the quiet north western state of Nigeria where Poverty is deep and 75% of its people survive below the $1 per day.

There are indeed rainy seasons in Zamfara

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Indigenous Peoples, the Extractives Industry, and Free, Prior, Informed Consent

FPIC report coverLast night was the launch of a new report on making free, prior and consent a reality for indigenous peoples, authored by Cathal Doyle and Jill Cariño, of Middlesex University law school and Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights respectively, and sponsored by PIPLinksMiddlesex University Law School and ECCR. Indigenous peoples have long been denied these  rights, especially by the extractives industry, but 6 years after the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) and 2 years after theUN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights things are changing, albeit unevenly.

In his keynote UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya described the report as “a very important contribution to implementing FPIC and moving forward the debate”. Certainly a lot more movement is needed, but a lot of progress has also been made since indigenous peoples began organising at a transnational level, especially through the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in the 1980s (subsequently replaced by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Andrea Muehlebach has written anexcellent article on the Working Groups’ cultural politics). I’m inclined to agree with Anaya, that we’re at an important turning point in the treatment of indigenous peoples: whereas previously the central issue for indigenous peoples was securing rights to self-determination in relation to their lands, territories and resources, increasingly the central issue is designing and implementing policies and mechanisms that will secure these rights in detailed practice. Certainly the devil is always in the detail, and drawing out the differing emphases in the perspectives of  indigenous peoples and multinational corporations and therewith the gap between their respective concerns is a key purpose of the report. But the report is also clear on two points. First, indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination is not in itself complicated. It is affirmed by all the major international human rights covenants and responsible bodies and clearly requires that prior consent from indigenous peoples is required before any utility is derived from their lands, territories and resources. Second, the extractives industry is well aware of these facts and by and large is seriously and substantively engaging their responsibility to respect these rights. ICMMIPIECA and other corporate membership bodies are grappling with how to comply with the clear (and ever-more closely scrutinised) requirements of law, although as the report’s authors make clear, they have serious legacy issues.

Which is where the details become important, and I commend the authors for consulting companies to accurately convey their perspectives. As Doyle explained in his remarks last night, the fact that the report could include consultations with such heavy-hitters as Rio Tinto, Xstrata, or De Beers says something of the distance travelled in the last decade and underlines Anaya’s point about the extent of the “turn” in the treatment of indigenous peoples. Yet the report is also clear that when it comes to quantifying the impacts of proposed extractive projects and establishing the knowledge-base on which FPIC decisions are made, indigenous peoples are the experts and their perspectives and methodologies must be taken seriously.

So it was appropriate that the launch consisted mainly of indigenous representatives giving their perspectives on how FPIC has (or more often has not) worked for them in their respective contexts.  Anne Marie Sam, a member of the Lusilyoo (frog) clan from the Nak’azdli First Nation in British Columbia, recounted the disastrous  consultations around the Mount Milligan gold and copper mine. After the Lusilyoo countered the mining company’s claim to be expert assessors with their own assessment methodology, they were accused of being “greedy Indians” and of “asking too many questions”.  In the end the miners obtained consent from another clan, had this deemed sufficient, and the project is underway, albeit at enormous cost and negligible local benefit. (Sam has written a short account of the process here (download); more background is here and here) . The key lesson drawn by First Nations was that focussing on external processes (ESIAs etc) can distract from working on internal processes like building community cohesion and consensus. Even where there is internal disagreement, local communities usually can agree on the importance of protecting the land.

Brian Wyatt of the National Native Title Council in Australia highlighted two key issues variously raised  by all the speakers. The first is that indigenous peoples carry the burden of proof of demonstrating connection to their lands. A legacy of the Mabo judgment, the implication is that they are responsible for demonstrating how they will be impacted if those connections are disrupted. No wonder then the arguments over IA methodologies and calculating suitable compensation.  The second is that FPIC is a right belonging to indigenous peoples and also implies the right to say no. In other words, it is not merely another tool available to companies to manage and minimise their risk, a point I have raised elsewhere in relation to due diligence.

All these issues come back to the reports’ starting point that FPIC directly stems from indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination stated clearly in DRIP and the human rights covenants. It is not an optional extra that can be granted or withheld by prevailing interests. Once upon a time this was an activist perspective and was openly challenged by companies and governments alike. These days it is a legal principle with all the compliance requirements and non-compliance risks law entails. It is also why this report is so timely and useful, for indigenous peoples and extractives companies alike.

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TWO-DAY ECONOMIC AND SOCIO-CULTURAL RIGHTS (ESCR) TRAINING FOR STAFF OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION(NHRC), ABUJA

PURPOSE:

This report provides a brief on the Economic & Socio-Cultural Rights training                                given to staff of the Commission.

TRAINING OBJECTIVES

The two-day training which took place in Abuja had the following objectives:

  • To enhance the capacity of Staff of National Human Rights Commission in their appreciation and understanding of Socio Economic Rights.
  • To enhance the capacity of Staff of the National Human Rights Commission in Investigating, Monitoring and Documentation of Socio Economic Rights violations.
  • To enhance the capacity of Staff of the National Human Rights Commission to effectively treat complaints arising from ESCR in a manner that will be beneficial to all within the parameters of the Constitution and International Charters.

 OVERVIEW

The training sessions took place between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm daily. Approximately 27 participants were in attendance. Participants were provided hard copies of most of the training topics discussed and e-copies will be sent to them as well.

As part of routine training methodology, trainees were encouraged to discuss challenges they encounter in the course of carrying out their duties as part of the class exercise.

METHODOLOGY

Sessions were vibrant and consisted of interactive discussions, question and answer sessions as well as power-point presentations.

CURRICULUM

The curriculum deployed took into consideration the wealth of experience trainees already have with a view to enhancing their knowledge of ESCR concepts vis-a-vis the current trend of governance in Nigeria in comparison to global best practices. Topics treated are indicated below:

  • History of Human Rights

Civil and political rights

– Economic Rights

-Labour/Environmental Rights

-Indivisibility and inter-dependence of Rights

  • The Legal Basis for ESC Rights

– Conventions

– Charters

– Resolutions

– National Laws

  • Types of ESC Rights

– Food

– Housing

– Water

-Health

– Education

– Security

  • Characteristics of ESC Rights

– Justiceability

– Progressive Realization

– Core Obligation ( Respect, Protect, and Fufill)

  • Content of ESC Rights

– Availability

-Adaptability

– Accessibility

– Acceptability

– Quality

  • Monitoring Approaches

– Violations Approach

– Progressive Realization Approach

– Core Obligation Approach

– Budget Analysis Approach

  • Monitoring Violations of ESC Rights

– Human Rights Education

– Information Gathering & Analysis

– Reporting

– Advocacy

– Solution building

Training Tools

Power-point presentations and a robust ESCR training module were used to impart knowledge to participants. The links to both documents are embedded in this report for your perusal.

Challenges encountered by NHRC Staff in the Discharge of Duties

Some of the difficulties participants mentioned included but might not be limited to the following:

  1. Lack of adequate cooperation from MDAs
  2. Inadequacy in Remedial measures
  3. Concrete strategy in the effective discharge of NHRC mandate in national HR Regime
  4. Funding

Recommendations

Though the training was a success, two-days might be considered inadequate for the full assimilation of concepts of the breadth and depth of those highlighted within the ESCR principles. Lawyers Alert therefore strongly recommends a follow-up three-day training session which will build on the foundation already laid by this first phase of training in order to consolidate on the milestone attained to this point. Lawyers Alert is willing to work with the management of the NHRC to come up with suitable dates for the proposed training.

Next Steps/Lessons learnt

Rising from the training and flowing from the enhanced knowledge, Participants were of the view that the NHRC at present while doing very commendably, reacts to issues as they arise, as against a more proactive approach in instilling human rights culture in governance especially as regards economic rights.

It is the understanding that going forward, the NHRC would strive to engage in several issues from budgets, poverty reduction, MDGs, employment, housing, education, water, health etc, in order to factor in human rights concerns.

Often policies and various administrative directives from Governmental Agencies are issued and carried out without recourse to human rights standards and the NHRC would pursuant to its mandate endeavor to see to the realization of this.

 Appreciation

Lawyers Alert thanks the Executive Secretary for the opportunity to work with the NHRC on this all important assignment and we look forward to working again with your vibrant staff.

 

 

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