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16.11.2021 investigations After Dataphyte’s Investigation, FG Confirms RCC’s Blasting in Ogunmakin is Unethical

Published 16th Nov, 2021

By Admin Admin

The National Environmental Standards, Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA), the body saddled with the responsibility of protection and development of the environment, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of Nigeria’s natural resources, has ordered Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) to immediately stop its blasting in Ogunmakin, Ogun State.

After the filing of the first part of this series, Dataphyte reached out to request information on the activities of Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) in the precincts of Ogunmakin, Ogun State.

In the request to NESREA, Dataphyte cites the National Environmental (quarrying and blasting operations) Regulations, 2013, which states that “a person shall not locate a quarry or engage in blasting within three kilometres (3km) of any existing residential, commercial or industrial area” and enquired of the agency why RCC is blasting less than 1km from Orile Ogunmakin community. 

The other question posed to the agency was of their inspection and enforcement processes especially as it concerns environmental and health hazards such as is posed to the residents of Orile Ogunmakin by RCC’s rock blasting activities.

NESREA Inspects RCC Blasting Site, Confirms Dataphyte Investigation 

NESREA officials during discussion with RCC’s facility site contacts. Photo Credit: NESREA

At 11 am on Monday 27th September, 20211, Obagiri Toyin, the NESREA Oyo State Coordinator, led a seven-man inspection team to the RCC blasting site, unannounced, to investigate the RCC’s blasting operation. 

The NESREA team met six RCC’s employees on the blasting site including Victor Dratch (Special Assistant to the Managing Director on Tech) and Naor  Narkisi (Project Manager) among others. HRH James Olugbemiga Shodiya, the Olu of Ogunmakin, and his personal assistant, Olaoye Kehinde also joined the inspection team.

Just as had been revealed in the first part of this investigation, the NESREA team observed and confirmed that Google Earth’s estimation of the distance was accurate, that the quarry blasting operation site’s distance to the nearest building in the community (Ogunmakin) was not up to 3km according to NESREA standards in the National Environmental (Quarrying and Blasting Operations) Regulations, S. I. 2013, 33.

A screenshot of Google Earth detailing the distance between Orile Ogunmakin and the RCC’s blasting site.

The NESREA team observed that the RCC blasting facility also has no Environmental Permits relevant to their operations while some of its workers were not putting on appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

The seven-man team also saw that RCC had Statutory Environmental documents (valid Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Audit (EAu) Certificates duly issued to them by Government Statutory Bodies) with valid/ functional fire extinguishers at strategic locations within the facility. 

Overview of the RCC’s blasting site. Photo credit: NESREA

Although the community members had reported to Dataphyte that RCC blasts three times weekly — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, RCC’s team told NESREA’s that that they do twice. 

NESREA RECOMMENDS IMMEDIATE HALTING OF BLASTING TECHNIQUE

In its report sent to Dataphyte on 30th of September, 2021, NESREA recommended that RCC should immediately stop its previous blasting technique and the facility should adopt the use of the best blasting technique in its blasting operation immediately. 

The report, labelled as ‘for immediate implementation’ also recommends that the RCC should intensify effort on good and cordial relationships with the host Community. It also added that the RCC should construct a bund wall around the diesel storage tank and the Generating set within Thirty (30) days. 


NESREA official with RCC facility site contacts at the RCC’s blasting operation site. Photo credit: NESREA

NESREA promises to keep up with regular monitoring of the RCC blasting facility to ensure strict compliance. It also charged the facility to obtain environmental permits relevant to its operation. 

“Obtain Environmental Permits relevant to your facility operations (Air Quality and Waste & Toxic Substances Permit) from the Agency to ensure compliance with extant environmental regulations and standards, visit www.nesrea.gov.ng for more information”. 

DISCREPANCIES IN NESREA’S REPORT

NESREA officials with the Olu of Ogunmakin in his palace. Photo Credit: NESREA

In NESREA’s report made available to Dataphyte, the King told the official team that “some parts of Ogunmakin community were captured in RCC Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).” This statement contradicts what the king had told Dataphyte.

On September 24, 2021, in a phone conversation with the Olu of Ogunmakin, Oba Olugbenga Sodiya told Dataphyte that it was through the series of engagements with RCC that he got to see, in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documents tendered to him, that Orile Ogunmakin was never considered in their assessments despite being less than 1km from the blasting site to their community. 

Subtitle They promised to build a hall and promised to do other things. We asked them to put it in writing. They did that. And they give us the money. For record purposes, each house collected N100,00. We didn’t tag it as gratuity or inconvenience, hence, we described it as ’empowerment’. I told them we can’t call it gratuity because they will need to do enumeration of each house in the community and know the worth of each. If we are to call it ‘inconvenience’ experts need to check how people are affected. We also realised that ‘Orile Ogunmakin’ is not in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Another point of contradiction in NESREA’s report is the statement by two of RCC’s representatives, Lukman Adeola, the Facility PRO that it had provided five (5) motorised boreholes to the community, installed a power transformer, constructed a Townhall, provided employment for the community members and pay salaries to some aged members of the community. Victor Dratch, S.A to the Managing Director on Technical Matters also said RCC had employed members of the community up to about eighty percent 80 % of its workforce, according to the NESREA report.

Again, parts of these statements are in direct contradiction to the statements made by the dwellers of the community to Dataphyte.

Jamiu Shurakat is the Baale of Orile Ogunmakin. He said RCC reneged on all its agreed promises to the community. PhotoCredit: Samad Uthman/ Dataphyte

Jamiu Shurakat, the Baale of Orile Ogunmakin, had told Dataphyte that of all the promises made to the community, only the community hall and motorised borehole, which he said they had been fixing with community contributions, had been delivered and in fact no member of the community was employed on the site. 

In his words, “as I am talking to you, none of us is employed in RCC. Every other thing they promised to do for us, we can not get hold of any among them”, the baale said to Dataphyte

His statements are captured clearly in the documentary.

QUICK ACTIONS, MISSING LINKS

NESREA’s prompt move to inspect RCC’s operations, and willingness to share the outcome of their investigation is commendable. 

However, their actions raise more questions than they answer and underscore challenges of overlapping functions, procedures and processes across ministries and agencies in Nigeria. These bureaucratic dysfunctions continue to cost Nigeria highly with direct human impact such as is the case with the people of Ogunmakin.

Why is there no interagency collaboration to ensure that as soon as a mining license is granted by the Ministry of Mines and Steel, a process to carry forward the process of environmental compliance is triggered at The National Environmental Standards, Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and Environmental Assessment Department who reviews, approves and gives Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Audit (EAu) Certificates? Both the agency and department are under the Federal Ministry of Environment.

At the blasting site, NESREA observed that RCC had a couple of permits (Statutory Environmental documents (valid Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Audit (EAu) Certificates duly issued to them by Government Statutory Bodies). 

These bodies such as the Environmental Assessment Department statutorily exist under the same ministry as NESREA, the Federal Ministry of Environment. Did those bodies follow due process before granting these permits? 

Should NESREA, an agency charged with the sustainable development of the country’s natural resources and set the standards that define blasting activities, not be a part of approval procedures for an environmental impact audit and statement? What is the “best blasting technique “ that the construction company under scrutiny should immediately adopt? Who sets that standard and enforces it?

Although most ministries, parastatals and departments are introducing technology to simplify their processes, these simplifications do not seem to extend to facilitate a tech-enabled process across interconnected or interrelated bodies and procedures.

The seeming disconnect between agencies within the same ministries and lack of coherence between agencies provide much room for unscrupulous activities as well as a gaping hole for corruption to fill.

Beyond recommending the cessation of blasting activities, NESREA’S actions do nothing for the people who have borne the brunt of  RCCs violations. 

Again, it is the citizens who suffer.

In a chat with Bamisaye Olutola, a policy analyst and researcher at Spaces for Change- a non-profit organization working to infuse human rights into social and economic governance processes in Nigeria- argued that based on Dataphyte’s investigation, the activities of RCC are grossly against international best practices. 

“The activities of RCC based on your report are grossly against international best practices and are in contradistinction to UN principles on business and human rights. Companies must never continue the business-as-usual practices of trading people’s human rights for profits or greedy gains. However, such practices have gone unabated and unchecked due to obviously supposed compromise of the relevant regulatory agencies”

This piece was originally published by dataphyte

Published 16th Nov, 2021

By Admin Admin

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