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Coal exploration: What Kogi host community is saying

Because of the faulty system we have in place the royalty that ought to accrue to Odagbo is hijacked in transit,  that is if at…

Because of the faulty system we have in place the royalty that ought to accrue to Odagbo is hijacked in transit,  that is if at all there was something like that.

Where our problem as host community actually started from was in 1967 when someone in privileged position in the then administration of the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) deliberately misled the then Federal Government that rather than Odagbo the coal deposit actually seat under the belly of  neighbouring Okaba. And the Nigeria Coal Corporation branch in Ankpa was named Okaba coal mine instead of reflecting the name of the actual host community being Odagbo. Anybody who knows Ojoku politically would readily assert the fact that Odagbo and Okaba, with other 14 Gagos, though historically linked, exist independently in terms of appointment of village heads, other title holders as well as undertake economic and social activities independent of each other. Given this, the coal in Odagbo could not be that of Okaba.

Two of our elders noticed that gross misrepresentation of our people and the village and immediately raised alarm so that that deliberate error was corrected, but because it was a criminality intended, however, that could not be. This crime against Odagbo people continued uptil this moment. Space would not permit the listing of the numerous damages meted to our people, suffice it to say that it was an attempt at saying Odagbo as a community does not exist. On the account of that inglorious change of name, Odagbo people lost grievously on agriculture and socio-economic fronts. Our farmers lost both their farms and its products to coal mining with pittance as compensation, the other amenities such as school, health facility, road and electricity promised our people were met half heartedly. Today, Odagbo has no consulting clinic let alone a full fledge one, the primary school in the area exist in bamboo shade as classrooms, in the name of road construction, the only accessible one into and out of Odagbo has been reduced to a roddent’s path, because a shody job was done on it. With the defunct Nigeria Coal Corporation (NCC), we were short-changed in terms of employment benefit to our qualified employable men and women as well as denial of business patronage.

When the Onyeama coal deposit was exhausted, the NCC was busy mining in Odagbo and was then misleading the Federal Government that coal was still being mined in Enugu. The Odagbo coal was at the centre of a huge conspiracy whose benefit was enjoyed by a minority few.

 In 1998, Dr. Amodu Alli when he wanted to contest for Kogi State governorship seat, among other things, told I and a cousin of mine, when he learnt that we are linked to Odagbo, that  the coal in our village, having been tested in New Castle, London, the heart of the world’s coal industry, is not only the world’s best, its waste is a raw material for cement. He also said our coal is what was keeping the then NCC going, because the Onyeama coal deposit has been completely exhausted through. Meanwhile, our people were being filled lies then that with Odagbo coal does not really add much value to ex-NCC, simply because the conspirators want to sustain the underdevelopment of the area.

Part of the conspiracy then was a non-existing public private sector coal business when companies such as Nordic Trading Company, owned by Chiefs Ernest Shonekan and Philip Asiodu with Emir Of Zaria, Alhaji Shehu Idris, scooped the coal in Odagbo without giving back anything in return in terms of social amenities. I got to know of Nordic through its late managing director, Hungarian Mr. Anderson who once spoke to me.

Because of this conspiracy, nobody knew how much was being generated by any kind of periodicals, let alone know how much was due to the governments that ruled Odagbo from 1967 to date. If any of such governments enjoyed any kind of benefit at all, we are not sure if Ankpa, one of the oldest and largest local governments got anything substantial let alone Odagbo the real host community.

How can we benefit when we do not have highly placed individuals who have been in and out of government to make a case on our behalf. That has been our lot.

Our consolation is that anything that has a beginning definitely has an end. If anybody is contesting this iron cast fact, such a person better stop day dreaming. If our ignorance, then our weakness, was being used against us, we have since realised that human folly. I am sure the import of this new awareness by the Odagbo people is beginning to dawn on the conspirators against our people. Events recently point in that direction. Our people have gotten wiser, that are not only asking questions, they have prepared themselves to be part of the new beginning, its consolidation as well as any socio-economic process that is going to involve the Odagbo coal. In another words, what we are saying is henceforth, whoever wants to have anything to do with Odagbo coal at whatever level should be wise enough to involve Odagbo people from start to finish. We now have capable men and women to do what is required in the coal enterprise.

Omonu-Ojoku writes from Mararaba, Nasarawa State ([email protected])       

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