Insecurity: Federal Govt says miners sponsor criminals in Nigerians
Charles Nwoke, Nigeria
March 18, 2021
Image courtesy of local sources, fair use.
President Muhammadu Buhari stated that money made from mining in parts of the country is being used to sponsor criminal activities by hoodlums who have infiltrated mining sites in the country.
He made the thought-provoking revelation during an event held at the University of Ibadan, on Tuesday.
President Buhari, who was represented in the event by the Minister of State for Minerals and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah, in what may appear for lamentation, revealed that since most mining activities were taking place in hinterlands, it was easy for hooligans to infiltrate the mining industry. He added that the money realized from mining was being used to fund criminal activities to the detriment of the country’s economy and its security.
“The reality of this truth is most obvious in the minerals sector given the fact that mining activities take place in remote localities. Our intelligence gathering efforts have confirmed that most of these criminal elements have infiltrated the mining industry and are using it as means of funding their despicable activities.
“It is with this understanding that we recently took the painful but necessary decision of banning all forms of mining activities in Zamfara State, where armed banditry has persisted.
“It is also to this end that I directed the Ministers of Mines and Steel Development to strengthen collaboration with state governments and relevant security agencies to ensure the security and safety of all mining areas. In so doing, we can achieve sustainable development of the minerals sector for the peace and security of our great country and good people,” he said.
According to many Nigerians, the President did not say anything new, as there had been speculations and reports that most of the banditry in Zamfara State is largely funded by gold mining, and that there is a gold/arms swap ongoing in the state, wherein, gold mined in the state are transported through illegal flights originating from the forests to a Middle-East country in exchange for arms and ammunition.
According to reports, recently, a video whose authenticity cannot be guaranteed, showed a dusty runway in a thick forest, with an aircraft taking off. If the video has any credibility, then it may be far from the truth that bandits get the sophisticated weapons they have been using to terrorize the North-West, parts of the North Central, and of course, where the Boko Haram insurgents and ISWAP get their deadly weapons, which on many occasions have been described as superior to what the Nigerian military forces use at the war front.
It is also instructive to note that, recently, during one of his many press interviews, Kaduna based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi had painted a scary image of the capacity and determination of the bandits operating in Zamfara and their determination to wreak greater havoc, when he revealed that they are in the process of getting an anti-aircraft rocket launcher.
Though the revelation is grim and scary, what is more, perplexing was the source of the money for the acquisition of these weapons of death. This has now been laid to rest, at least officially by President Buhari, after the Tuesday expose in Ibadan. What has not, however, been clarified is, whose fault is it that bandits, or criminals, using the President’s word, were able to be in a commanding position to mine the nation’s commonwealth only to use the proceeds to terrorize citizens?
Nigerians, who spoke to DAILY POST are sharply divided in the issue, as some blamed the government for surrendering what could have improved the economic situation of the country to bandits who use the proceeds to acquire arms to wage war against innocent citizens, while others believe the President was just being sincere by revealing what the true situation is and that the problem had been on before his administration.
Malam Adamu Sani, a native of Zamfara, in a chat with DAILY POST, posited that the problem is far worse than the picture painted by President Buhari. According to him, mining in Zamfara is a big criminal enterprise controlled by bandits who make huge money from it and that is the reason banditry will continue to thrive in the state and adjourning states.
“It is unfortunate that most Nigerians, especially those here in the South do not have a true picture of what is going on and as a result, cannot appreciate it. What is going on is not just banditry but an economic war being waged against the Nigerian nation. If the gold deposit in Zamfara disappears today, banditry will end in no time, because that’s the motivation and the source of their weapons.
“When some people raised the alarm that aircraft have been noticed to drop weapons and other supplies to bandits in the dead of the night, many Nigerians thought people were merely raising false alarm but with what Mr. President has said, it is obvious now that there is a measure of credibility in the alarm. At least, we all know that the kind of sophisticated weapons used by these bandits and terrorists are not sold on Nigerian streets or in the open market anywhere in the world. It is a black market operation with clandestine means of transportation and supply roots. These are the things government must look into,” Sani said.
Speaking also, Mr. Adeagbo Clement, a security expert, blamed the Nigerian government for the current situation. According to him, the government had all it takes to nip the problem in the bud before it escalated to this level.
“For me, this is a failure of governance. In fact, the President has indirectly admitted his failure when he said criminals have infiltrated mining sites and sliding proceeds from them to fund criminal activities.
“To start with, I believe the Federal Government have complete data of everywhere in the country where there is a mineral deposit and they have all the intelligence apparatus any government should have. If there are criminals mining in the country, what has the government done about it? Mining is not something you can do without a trace; it involves heavy-duty machinery if it must be done in commercial quantity. It also involves a hoard of workers or laborers as the case may be. So, it cannot be done in a hidden manner.
“It is also clear to all that to be a legal miner, you must be licensed by the Federal Government, meaning that government has a database of every legal miner in the country and their areas of jurisdiction. I believe this is where to start; let there be a discrete intelligence-driven investigation into the activities of all the miners and in the process, identify the illegal and criminally-minded ones among them”, Clement submitted.
Taking a different view, a management consultant, Babatunde Adeniyi, believes that the problem is more of the fact that most serious mining activities in the country are controlled by foreigners, especially Asians, such as the Chinese and the Indians. According to him, these foreign nationals bear no allegiance to Nigeria and would care less what happens as long as they keep making money.
“These foreigners, to me, have a lot to tell us. The Chinese, for instance, will do anything to maximize the opportunity they have and have been known over the years not to respect the laws of the land. They engage in underhand dealings, connive with Nigerians, including security agents to carry out their illegal dealings. I believe the government should have to beam its searchlight on foreigners mining in Zamfara and other parts of the north.
“I honestly believe that it takes foreign connections for the bandits in Zamfara and other parts of the country to have access to the kind of weapons they are operating with. Questions must be asked how they got those weapons because they are not what you just pick up at a street corner anywhere in the world. There is a gun-running cartel involved, and I doubt if these bandits can on their own, have access to the cartel. Someone somewhere, who has an interest in the ongoing banditry, whatever that interest is, is arming them or procuring the arms for them”, Adeniyi said.
A youth leader of one of the opposition parties in Lagos, while responding to questions from DAILY POST, stated that he is yet to understand how the weapons in the hands of the bandits and terrorists found their ways into the country.
“If you say aircraft; if illegal flights come into the country without being detected or intercepted, then we have a major problem as a nation. If the weapons come in through land borders, since the seaports are technically out of the possible avenues, then there is still a grave problem. So, for me, whatever is happening at the moment is a failure of governance, a serious indictment on the parts of those charged with the responsibility of keeping the country safe.
“I remember talks about a radar project that will cover the entire country, meaning that every aircraft that enters the nation’s airspace can be detected. What happened to it? Is it not working or someone detected illegal flights and looked the other way? So many questions to be answered but we may never get the answers, as it’s typical of Nigeria,” he said.
Mr. Tanimola Haruna is, however, of the view that whatever is happening now predates President Buhari and that he was just unfortunate to have inherited a very bad situation – security-wise.
“You may think that things are worse now but don’t forget that the issue of terrorism and banditry have been there before the administration of President Buhari. I will say what is happening now is more of the failure of former administrations and not that of Buhari. We should appreciate the President for speaking out and telling us what the actual problem is and why it is festering.
Also, remember that he also said he has given the new service chiefs weeks to clear off all the criminal elements causing insecurity in the country. I want to believe that before long, Nigerians will begin to appreciate the efforts of the President in securing the country.
“Terrorism and banditry are not security issues that can be easily dispensed with. We have seen that in other countries, especially where they have access to funds and weapons. So, Nigerians should exercise patience to allow the President and his security chiefs to do their job,” Haruna appealed.