Nigerian governor silent on Lafarge pollution in Paris talks

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The Nation, Nigeria , Paris, France

Promoting an Agro-Forestry Project while forgetting about pollution from cement production.

 Lafarge

The governor of Nigeria’s Ogun state, Ibikunle Amosun has advocated agro-forestry as a mean of mitigation against climate change and boosting the economy of Nigeria. Ogun state is host to Lafarge Africa Plc., one of the biggest polluters in West Africa.

The governor who was at a side event organized by the cement company at the Green Zone of the COP21 venue said: “The way to go if we really want to come out of the economic crisis is through agro-forestry. It will save our environment and provide jobs for our people. If we are going to get it right as a nation, we need to diversify our economy. We are blessed with natural and human resources and the best way to diversify is via agriculture that will lead us to industrialization.”

Lafarge had organized a session at a side event to promote a new initiative between Ogun state government and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), called the Ogun State Forest Landscape Restoration Project. The project was signed in September 2015.

  According to Lafarge, “The project is set to transform 108,000 hectares of heavily degraded land into an arable green area. It is designed to employ innovative approaches to achieve best-of-breed environmental, social and economic results. The scheme's uniqueness rests in the way it combines land restoration with business development objectives by applying the latest findings of agro-ecology and agroforestry.”

But while there is nothing on the ground to show the commitment of either parties to this project, Lafarge has continued to ignore calls to show human face in its business operations in Nigeria. According to Nigerian investigators, the company’s manufacturing plant in a sleepy village of Ewekoro, -which is a distance of about 60.4 km to Lagos, Nigeria’s business capital- has generated much environmental pollution, causing sickness and sometimes death to the villagers.

“Everything dies in Ewekoro. Life is harder every minute. Day by day, we awaken to the sad reality of watching our community suffer a hard and gruesome death. Life is not what we thought it would be like living as neighbours with LafargeWAPCO,” the community leader of Ewekoro, Musulumi Balogun, told Nigerian journalists early in 2015.

Balogun also alleged that the company never paid for the acquisition of the vast expanse of land on which it has built its factory but only paid a paltry sum for the crops on the land.

“Our land is dead. The only surviving river we have now is polluted, taken over by weeds and a vicious swamp. It is unsafe to venture into it either to fish or make irrigation for farmland. We don’t even have the land we could farm anymore. The little crops that survive on our land are hardly fit for consumption, they are perpetually contaminated by fumes and cement dust from Lafarge WAPCO’s chimney,” Balogun said.

Nigerian journalists covering the COP21 have noted that the governor’s presence at the side event and his silence on the pollution and devastation generated by the company was an affirmation of the conducts of Lafarge.

Lafarge has repeatedly tried to claim credits for the Forest Landscape project as an initiative to mitigate climate change in Africa. It said: “The Ogun State Forest Landscape Restoration Project is a pioneering initiative demonstrating how a private group can join force with proactive public entities to launch sustainable projects and will position Nigeria as an African leader to launch sustainable Climate Change PPP projects.”