A civic organisation, Urban Alert has again expressed concern over the attitude of governments on the contamination of the Osun River that serves over 70 communities in Southwest Nigeria.
The group, in 2021 released a laboratory result that proved the existence of mercury, lead, cyanide and other toxic elements in the river caused by activities of gold miners operating in many communities in Osun State.
In a statement by its Communications Associate, Titilade Alayande on World Environment Day, Urban Alert said the group is committed to a safe environment, mineral resource accountability, open governance, data-driven transparency and citizen participation.
“Having affirmed that the river which serves over 70 communities in Southwest Nigeria, has been heavily contaminated by mercury, lead, cyanide and other toxic elements by gold miners operating in many communities in Osun State, Nigeria, nothing significant has been done by the Federal and Osun State Governments despite series of verbal commitment at different times.
“The contamination of the 213km iconic Osun River has continued to take centre stage in conversations around environmental degradation.
“Recall that the Director General of the Nigerian Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Prof. Aliyu Jauro, had during a media parley on 25th August 2022, disclosed the readiness of his agency to ensure the safety of the Osun River having concluded its investigation on the life-threatening activities of gold miners in some parts of Osun State.
“Painfully, the statement from NESREA has remained mere words with no action, as miners continued to work unhindered, polluting water bodies and exposing more communities to water poisoning and environmental degradation in Osun State and other states in the southwestern part of Nigeria.
“Similarly, during his inaugural address in November 2022, Gov. Ademola Adeleke of Osun State promised to tackle the menace of water poisoning and environmental degradation by gold miners in Osun State.
“Six months later, significant action is yet to be taken by the Osun State Government to protect the lives of over 2 million people threatened by the contamination of Osun River and other major rivers in Osun State. How long shall over 23 communities in Osun State continue to suffer the grievous effect of water poisoning and land degradation caused by mining, despite all the extant laws protecting the environment and governing mineral exploration in Nigeria?
Urban Alert, however, “again, we call on the Federal Government; the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and the Federal Ministry of Environment not to shy away from the plight of the affected communities by enforcing the Minerals and Mining Act 2007, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency Act and other environmental laws.
The group called on the Osun State Government to set up a special unit or agency to focus solely on environmental issues arising from mining activities as we await the reclamation of the iconic Osun River.