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Residents raise the alarm over illegal mining in Edo community

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
05 January 2022   |   3:47 am
Residents of Dangbala community in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State have raised the alarm over the influx of illegal miners in their neighbourhood.

illegal mining

Residents of Dangbala community in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State have raised the alarm over the influx of illegal miners in their neighbourhood.

They said besides the loss of revenue to the government, the saboteurs also pose risk to lives and properties in the region.

Dangbala is a rural community that boasts of natural resources, though recently had come under siege following the activities of illegal miners, prompting the Edo government to close the site. However, it has not deterred illegal mining.

In the wake of the illegal mining in the community, some persons were recently arrested in connection with the illicit business.

About four suspected illegal miners were reportedly arrested over their nefarious activities and detained by the state police command in Benin.

The suspects, according to eyewitnesses, were apprehended by local vigilantes who in turn handed them to the police for prosecution.

As community members live in fear over the influx of illegal miners in their domain, some residents said the presence of illegal miners in their community is capable of jeopardising the security situation, if not checked.

Asides that illegal mining activities destroy landscapes, lush vegetation, lead to erosion, the formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity and contamination of soil, they also contribute to local conflicts.

While there have been allegations of some community elders’ involvement in the illegal mining activities, the peaceful coexistence in the community is under threat as the detained suspects were also alleged to have attacked and injured one Mr. Peter Adelabu Kokumo at Oketegbe mining site where the illegal mining activities had been taking place with the support of some community elders.

Spokesman of the Community, Collins Nicholas, who addressed newsmen on the activities of the illegal miners in the community demanded for the prosecution of those arrested in connection with illegal mining.

He said those behind illegal mining in the community had also resorted to frivolous petition writing against those opposed to their criminal activities to mislead the public and called on the Police authority to unmask them.

According to Nicholas, “presently, illegal mining still thrives in my community day and night. Those benefiting boasted that they are untouchable.

“Even when local security (vigilante) came, they prevented them from gaining access to the site. Secondly, they are using the name of our traditional head to write petitions against those opposed to them in Dangbala.

“This is a traditional ruler that is bedridden and can’t even talk nor take decisions. On November 10, 2021, we were invited to the state CID on allegation of threat to life and breach of peace but to our dismay the said petitioners couldn’t show up. We are demanding that the petitioners should be produced.

“Even when the police visited the community, they discovered that our traditional head was bedridden. It was at that point they now asked us to go and settle. That was when they brought hundreds of illegal miners that invaded our community.

“Those faceless petition writers are the ones destroying Dangbala because as I speak, there are guns and dangerous weapons in the community and our people are no longer safe.

“We are calling on all well-meaning Akoko-Edo people world over to speak out against this invasion and the wanton stealing of our God given resources. Those already arrested should be prosecuted because we want peace and development.

Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Security Matters, Haruna Yusuf, confirmed the arrest of four miners, noting that the matter was being handled by the police command in Benin.

Unwary of the state government’s efforts to ensure the security of life and property in the area, particularly with a view to ending illegal mining in the community, the illegal miners have continued with their nefarious activities in the Edo North axis of the state, which undermine security within and around the community.

Despite the alarm raised by residents in the community, the Zonal Mining Officer (ZMO) in charge of the area, AbdulKadiri Adamu claimed he was not aware of the development.

“Edo state government placed embargo on the activities of the miners in the state and I am not aware that they are back there”, ZMO in charge of the area said.

Some residents under the aegis of Concerned residents of the community had in a statement signed by the Convener, Godwin Amusa and Secretary, Agbaje Lawani, expressed worry that the latest development of illegal mining in the community if not urgently handled, could throw the once peaceful community into chaos.

“The once peaceful community has been turned into something we fear may snowball into a problem to the community and the state as a whole.

“These people move in with their equipment at ungodly hours and carry on with their activities with impunity. With the way they go about these activities, one is forced to believe that they have outside forces backing them.

“As I speak with you, the community leadership is divided on the matter. While some pretend not to know what is happening, others who are speaking against it are being shut down. This is the reason why few of us came together and decided to come out publicly to call for urgent action to be taken by the authorities to stop this madness that may become a security threat if not handled with dispatch.”

While praying that illegal mining in their community does not reach the Zamfara state situation, the local residents of the community who didn’t want their names in print said not only had the increased competition among the illegal miners created tension in their community, their activities had become an issue of security threat waiting to take a toll on the peaceful people of the community and state.