#childabductors | Osun communities in the grip of illegal miners – Punch Newspapers

Bola Bamigbola

Kayode, father of an 18-year-old apprentice welder, Tope, allegedly killed by one Babuga, identified as a Fulani during a scuffle with some Hausa miners at Iyere, a town in Osun State harbouring large number of illegal miners, did not betray any emotions when he spoke with Sunday PUNCH.

Though he was unable to say much about the incident, his countenance bore the bearing of a helpless parent who lost his child in a cold-blooded murder.

Kayode in an earlier interview with Sunday PUNCH explained that the deceased arrived in Iyere from Ilesa, about an hour before he was killed inside a market during a fight he was never a partaker.  He reportedly got hit by a bullet fired by Babuga accused of stealing money and gold from Hausa miners.

The incident sparked immediate reaction from the indigenes and two more people were killed following deadly retaliation against Fulani dwellers in the community. People’s belongings were also destroyed as the resident demanded instant relocation of the Fulani working in mining fields whom they accused of armed robbery, kidnapping and banditry.

This appears to be the situation in the communities in Osun State where illegal mining has been ongoing. Insecurity, land degradation and residents’ exposure to environmental hazards caused by activities of illegal miners are the odd sides of life facing people in communities located mostly in the East Senatorial District of the state.

Apart from street brawls resulting in casualties and loss of property, kidnapping and banditry are also rife in many of the communities where illegal mining take place.

A monarch in one of the affected communities, the Alagun of Itagunmodi, a town in the Atakumosa West Local Government Area of the state, Oba Michael Famadewa-Kosile, in May, 2019, pleaded with the state government to immediately put an end to mining activities in his town.

He said the state of insecurity across Ijesaland was directly linked to mining activities ongoing in towns and other adjoining villages in the area. The monarch added that the miners were degrading the land and engaging in criminal activities.

“I was kidnapped around 4:30pm by 20 men on May 30 in 2018 in Okiika junction on my way home from the hospital. I was thoroughly beaten by my abductors. My abductors also took N1.7m from my vehicle. I managed to escape when my abductors slept off,” the monarch said.

Apart from the insecurity that has become a feature in many villages where mining sites are located, another challenge is the pressure on already inadequate social amenities which mining has brought.

Some residents of Iyere, a town in Atakumosa council area in the state, told our correspondent during a visit to the place that activities of miners in the area led to pollution of the main  water source.

They noted that despite campaigns by the wife of the state governor, Kafayat Oyetola, most people in the area, especially the large population of northerners working in mining sites littering the village still engage in open defecation. A development which they said exposed them to health risks.

Beyond insecurity and health risks which activities of the illegal miners had exposed residents to, many communities with mining sites are also facing challenge of massive land degradation and damage to cash crops.

Sunday Ayeni, an indigene of Itagunmodi, told Sunday PUNCH that before some residents of the gold-rich community could unite and fight attacks on those refusing to give up land for mining, many of them had been maimed and killed.

He shared an experience he had with some miners working on a farmland near his own who he said suddenly invaded his farm and uprooted some crops in search of gold.

He said, “When I arrived on my farm that morning, I was confronted with several northern youth armed with weapons already digging the farm in search of gold. I told them I didn’t sell my land to miners but they didn’t listen and I attempted to forcefully stop them.

“I was attacked by about four fully armed men because I told them to stop working on my farm. I was lucky that I escaped. When I reported the matter to our leaders, the perpetrators were cautioned and since them, they have not been to my farm.

“The main source of water for the villager is Omi Ayo but that has been contaminated no thanks to the miners. The few ones that are available, if you fail to get water before daybreak, you can’t get potable water anymore.”

He also lamented the increasing northern youths hired as labourers by Chinese miners working in the area and called on the government to stop the influx of miners into the village as a precaution to the security challenge their presence may pose.

He noted that the majority of the villagers could not also fully resist the miners because they move around with armed riot police. Ayeni added that the fact that policemen were providing security for the miners to the villages meant the government knew about their activities in the area.

Miners claim they are involved in legitimate business

Oba Samuel Falaye, the Agila of Igila, another village with many mining sites, during an interview, expressed frustration over what he called tacit approval of the activities of miners in the area by the government.

He said workers in a Chinese mining company opened a mining field near a water dam donated to residents by ex- governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration. The dam located in Fadugba village, the monarch said, was tampered with while pipes already laid to take water to different communities were ruptured.

Falaye said, “The challenge facing us as traditional rulers as we try to protect our land is enormous. It is difficult when we write security agencies to complain about activities of the miners and the family who owns the land negotiate with the Chinese and sell off their heritage.

How 120 hunters, police arrested 17 illegal Chinese, 10 locals

On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at the launch of the Joint Task Force against kidnapping, banditry and illegal mining, Governor Gboyega Oyetola, declared that the new security outfit would collaborate to rid the state of vices.

He said, “The joint task force is a collaboration of the army, the police, the air force, the Department of State Services, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Immigration Service, and it shall provide operational support for Amotekun to fight cultism, kidnapping, illegal mining and other related crimes.’’

Four days after the launch of the outfit, 27 illegal miners including 17 Chinese, were arrested at five different locations in the forest.

Reliable security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told our correspondent that twice the security forces tried to invade some already identified mining sites in Osun East but the information leaked.

One of the sources said, “The Chinese miners were bold. One of them even called to warn us that whoever came to their domain would be killed. What we did was to change tactics and it worked.

“Before we embarked on the mission, we identified some sites where big machines were being used. The sites are;  Ibodi, Itagunmodi, Akad, Iyere, Kajola in Ile-Ife, Ogbagba, Osu Orogo, Ijaregbe, Oora, Oke Bode, Ilekki, Alaba, Ijana and Egun, among others.

“We planned our strategy to get into the five targeted mining centres. Some policemen attacked us but we warned them.  Eventually, after we had successfully disarmed their police escort, we also gained access to the mining centres.

“After we raided the five mining sites and arrested 27 of them, we left some hunters there to watch over the places and ensure that the sites were not looted.”

Reacting to the development, Director General of Amotekun in Osun State, Amitolu Shittu, said five hunters each were stationed at the entrances to the sites.

He also decried activities of illegal miners in the state, warning that Amotekun would tackle all vices to prevent hazards associated with mining.

In his comment, the Chief Press Secretary to the Osun Governor, Ismail Omipidan, restated government’s readiness to close down all illegal mining sites across the country.

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