Tradition and necessity are keeping local miners in the mines despite an order of the federal government stopping all mining activities in the troubled North Western state of Zamfara, Daily Trust findings have shown.
In many communities around the ancient mining sites of Kwali, Zuzzurfa, Dareta and Bagega located in Maru, Gusau, Anka, Bukkuyum and Zurmi local government areas (LGAs), artisans who have for many years mined gold and other precious stones as a means of livelihood are holding on to the sites despite effort by the police to enforce the ban placed by government.
The federal government, through the National Security Council (NCS), recently restated the ban on mining activities in the state as a way of curtailing the spate of insecurity which the government attributed to gold mining activities.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd), said the decision of the council, after its meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 2, 2021, was aimed at stopping “arms for gold” deals going on which fuelled banditry in that part of the country.
Gen Monguno said, “His Excellency, the president, has approved, based on our recommendation, the imposition and enforcement of a ban on all mining activities in Zamfara State with immediate effect until further notice.”
A Daily Trust reporter who visited some mining sites in the state reports that companies engaged in mining have largely vacated the state due to insecurity and the government’s order. A number of the mining sites are now inaccessible due to the activities of bandits who have occupied many forests in the state.
While licensed mining companies operating in the state have complied with the order, many artisanal miners are playing “cat and mouse” with security personnel who routinely raid such fields to arrest defaulters.
Visits to some of the mining sites show that many miners and other labourers work at both the pits and grinding sites mostly in the day time, unlike the previous practice of nearly a 24-hour operation.
Majority of the workers at the sites are young men and children. In pits tens of metres deep, the able-bodied men use anvils and hammers to scrap belts and layers of sand for possible gold deposits.
Following the steps of their forefathers, mining is in the blood of the people in these villages, where residents for generations alternate between farming and mining.
Some of the mining sites date back to over 100 years with many other sites activated during colonial administration. Modern mining co-exists with the longstanding artisanal mining in most of the villages.
The Zamfara State Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Dr Nuraddeen Isah, told Daily Trust that, “Gold mining dates back to 1902 under what was then the Northern Protectorate. Gold mining helped the then Northern Protectorate under the British colonialists. Some of the mines were in Kwali, Bukkuyum, Zuzzurfa, Maikwananga, Kamfani, Maru; and many other towns.”
Dr Isah said between 1935 and 1942 according to the records of geological activities in the Northern Region, the mines used to produce about 400,000 ounces of gold per month.
With the ban enforced on mining in Zamfara, activities have slowed down at most sites as majority of those engaged in artisanal mining have either left for their places of origin or travelled to other places in search of alternative means of livelihood, but a number of others still hang around the mines; scavenging for what to live on.
Middle-aged men defy police raids and possible attacks by bandits to venture into the mines for treasure hunt; rummaging through the excavated sands in search of the precious stones.
The only machinery used by the local miners are crushers and water pumps which supply water to separate sand from gold.
Some, working in villages along Gagare River and local streams, use shovels and bowls in sifting through the sand in search of the gleaming treasure.
Some of the miners who spoke to Daily Trust said mining was a necessity for them as it remained the only means of livelihood in their areas. Some of them said they fled attacks in their villages to bigger towns where mining activities took place in search of money to sustain their families.
A resident of Maru, Mallam Labbo, told our reporter that, “The number of people have reduced because of the fear of arrest, while others have travelled to places like Lagos, Abuja and Kano to look for what to do after the government asked that all mining activities be stopped.
“It is only lately that some began to go back to the sites secretly because they have no any other option. A lot of our people did not farm or were unable to harvest their farms this year.”
Muhammadu Sani, a resident of Zurmi who moved to a village in Birnin Magaji for mining recounted how he was arrested by the police at a site three weeks ago.
Sani said, “I was new there and we were only struggling to find what we could buy food for our families, but they came and arrested all of us. On the day we were arrested, what the three of us earned after spending the whole day at the site was N1,600.”
Alleged secret mining
Aside the villagers, some of the sources who spoke to Daily Trust alleged that some high profile persons close to government in the state were being given security cover to deploy their men to work at some sites.
At Kwali in Bukkuyum LGA, for example, a resident of a nearby village told our reporter that policemen escorted about 20 workers every day to the site in Kwali who were said to be working for a prominent businessman close to Gov Bello Matawalle.
However, both the state police command and the state government described the allegation as false.
Police spokesman in the state, SP Shehu Mohammed, said the police were deployed to Kwali and other sites to ensure compliance with the banning order and not to give cover to anybody to indulge in the activity.
The Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals also denied the allegation, saying neither the governor nor anyone close to him was engaged in mining activities, challenging those with contrary facts to make them public.
He said, “As far as the state government is concerned, and my office, I have no recollection of anybody coming through me, or any directive from the government to take anybody to any site. I challenge anybody in this country…It’s a big lie. If you say people are saying, well, you don’t build government on heresy. You build government on facts and figures and things that are very honest.”
We’re enforcing ban – Police
The Zamfara State Police Command said it was working hard to ensure absolute compliance with the ban order.
Its spokesman, SP Mohammed, said aside its men on ground, the command recently got additional men dedicated to the enforcement of the ban and addressing the challenge of rural banditry in the state.
SP Mohammed said, “The Inspector General of Police (IGP) sent in a special unit in November last year comprising operations and intelligence officers as anti-illegal mining task force,” adding that the task force had men deployed to all the LGAs where mining took place.
In addition, he said the police high command posted about 300 mobile policemen to the state last month who were posted mainly to villages and mining areas.
How ban is affecting us – Gold traders
The spokesman of the Zamfara Gold Buyers and Sellers Cooperative Union (ZGBSC), Alhaji Ayuba Ahmad Muhammad, said business activities at the gold market had ebbed because of scarcity of the commodity.
Alhaji Muhammad said, “The ban has contributed negatively to our business. We are used to being here in our state and getting the little that we are able to get, but now work has been stopped. Most of our people, including the labourers, have to travel far to other states to be able to sustain themselves.”
He said some of the people engaged in gold mining and business had also moved to places like Arlit in Niger Republic, further explaining that the ban was likely to aggravate insecurity due to disengagement of hundreds of miners from their source of income.
He, therefore, called on the federal government to rethink its decision, as he insisted that there was no connection between those who engaged in mining activities and bandits operating in the state.
Imo Police arrest 2 robbery suspectsf from Mbaise
The Imo State Police Command has arrested two armed robbery suspects, Mr. Darlington Ogubike, aged 36 and Mr. Ihuoma Emeriole, aged 25 , both from Umuevu Onitsha in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo state, for armed robbery and unlawful possession of firearms.
In a press release from the State Command, through the Command’s, Police Public Relations Officer, CSP. Mike Abattam, disclosed that on “the 14th of July 2021 at about 17:30 hours based on credible information, a gang of armed robbers that have been terrorising Mbaise and its environs were sighted at Umuevu Onitsha Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA in Imo State.
The command tactical teams mobilised and raided the criminal hideout where Darlington Ogubike and Ihuoma Emeriole both of Umuevu Onitsha Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA were arrested”.
He further stated that, two English made authomatic Pump Action Guns, with seven rounds of live cartridges and two locally made Pistols were recovered from them, adding that, the suspects are presently undergoing interrogation and have made useful statements that will aid the police to arrest other suspects.
The Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command, CP Abutu Yaro, however commended the officers and men for their proactiveness, and thanked residents and citizens of the state for their commendable synergy with the police, especially in the provision of credible information that has enable smart policing and interception of criminal elements easier and warned that, all criminals should relocate from the state or face severe sanction.
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Again, gunmen raze Akwa Ibom police station, kill cop
Gunmen again on Wednesday set ablaze a divisional police station in the Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and killed one officer.
The officer, one Police Constable, Edogi Bassey, was gunned down by the hoodlums during exchange of fire between policemen and the assailants.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Odiko Macdon, who confirmed the attack in a statement in Uyo, said the hoodlums drove into the station in two vehicles loaded with dangerous weapons including AK-47 rifles.
The statement titled, ‘Police repelled attack at police stations’ read in part “At about 6:30am today, armed men in their numbers, armed with AK 47 rifles and other dangerous weapons, in two vehicles attacked the rented building housing the Etim Ekpo Area Command and Division.
“The undaunted and vigilant police officers on duty gallantly fought back, repelled them and averted the intended carnage.
“Unfortunately, a dedicated officer, one PC Edogi Bassey, paid the supreme price while a small portion of the building was torched.
“The gunmen who proceeded to Ika Division to perpetrate their nefarious activities were successfully again repelled leaving the station intact without loss of lives or arms.”
The statement added that the worrisome situation is being addressed by the police hierarchy and required the collaboration of all, adding that Commissioner of Police in the state, Andrew Amiengheme, had visited police formations and had called on law abiding citizens to volunteer timely information that will enable the police tackle the present security challenges in the state.
$153 million, 80 houses recovered from Diezani —EFCC boss
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abdulrasheed Bawa, has disclosed that the commission has recovered $153 million from former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who has been living in Britain since leaving office.
He also said the anti-graft agency recovered no fewer than 80 choice property valued at $80m.
This was contained in the April edition of the EFCC magazine, EFCC Alert.
But the EFCC chief was quick to add that bringing the former minister to justice was still far from reality, given the fact that she was out of Nigeria’s jurisdiction, acknowledging the challenges associated with bringing her home to face justice.
The chairman said, “There are several cases surrounding Diezani’s case. I was part of that investigation, and we have done quite a lot. In one of the cases, we recovered $153 million; we have secured the final forfeiture of over 80 properties in Nigeria valued at about $80 million. We have done quite a bit on that.
“The other cases as it relates to the $115 million INEC bribery is also ongoing across the federation. We are looking forward to the time we will, maybe, have her in the country, and, of course, review things and see what will happen going forward. The case has certainly not been abandoned.’’
But responding to a question as to how he would be dealing with powerful government officials in the discharge of his assignment as EFCC chair, Bawa said he would be ready to leave the job if anyone tried to make him do what was illegal.
“I am not going to pay allegiance to individuals in the government,” he added.
Bawa pointed out that though he was young, he had paid the price on the job, having been among the pioneer staff of EFCC, rising through the ranks to reach the top.
He stated, “I rose through the ranks. The only job I know after graduation is the EFCC, which I joined in 2004. I rose through the ranks from an ordinary team member, to the first EFCC team leader from the regular staff of the EFCC.
“ I became a sectional head, became the zonal head in Ibadan, zonal head in Port Harcourt, and zonal head in Lagos. Lagos is the biggest operational hub of the EFCC with over 600 personnel. Port Harcourt is next to it in terms of complexity and staff strength. I happen to be the first EFCC regular staff to head three different zones before my appointment as the chairman.”
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