BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
Tension is brewing in IgunIjesa community, one of the areas in Atakunmosa West Local Government Area of Osun State with large gold deposits, following the alleged disappearance of a gold miner’s excavator and subsequent arrests of the community’s traditional ruler, his chiefs and some other indigenes.
It was gathered that indigenes of the community had raised the alarm over a stationary excavator owned by an unknown person, saying the equipment was constituting environmental threat and was being used as arsenal by criminal elements in the agrarian community. Disturbed by its continuous presence, the traditional ruler of the community, Oba Solomon Komolafe and other stakeholders called the attention of the Osun Ministry of Environment to the excavator and urged it to remove it from the community.
After visiting the site and confirming that the excavator was blocking erosion and causing flooding in the community as alleged by the monarch, his council members and indigenes, the State Environment Ministry was said to have obtained a court order to remove it. The state government allegedly auctioned the excavator after the owner didn’t show up.
However, there was trouble in the community after the alleged owner of the excavator simply identified as Mr Jona, a gold miner, later showed up and brought police to arrest the monarch and some indigenes of the community over the disappearance of his excavator.
The police, it was gathered, arrested and quizzed Oba Komolafe, his chiefs and some other persons. Their vehicles were said to have been seized by the Osun State Police Command on the order of the rich gold miner after they were released on bail on January 25, 2023 with condition of reproducing the sold excavator.
One of the indigenes of the community told The Point, “Sometimes, last year, Igun-Ijesa community in Atakunmosa West Local Government wrote the Ministry of Environment, saying that one metal scrap excavator that some miners were using was constituting environmental nuisance. So, they called the attention of the Ministry of Environment that some criminals were keeping their arms and ammunition there and that it was also blocking erosion and waterway where it was parked and resulting to flood.
“The Ministry of Environment through its consultant, approached the community and carried out investigation. On getting there, they discovered it was true. They now went to court to get an order of removal of that excavator. They placed the removal notice on the excavator because they didn’t see the owner of the excavator.
So, after the expiration of the removal notice, the consultant went to the court for an order to auction the excavator and the order was obtained. They sold it and put the money in the government’s account. “They sold it for over N800,000. This is because the excavator has been set ablaze after some youths clashed with some miners in the area.
They said the security agents protecting the miners shot and killed one of the miners during protest against environmental degradation and pollution. So, now, the carcass of the excavator was what the consultant sold. It was sold last year. It was after this that the owner surfaced. He took the Police to arrest the consultant but they didn’t get him. The Police arrested the traditional ruler, his chief, and they arrested some people in the consultant’s office.
Those arrested approached their lawyer and they headed to court. “Ilesa High Court gave an interim injunction that they (Jona and police) should not arrest, detain or harass the complainants (Oba Komolafe, traditional chiefs and other that were arrested). The court admitted them (complainants) to bail of N1million each with one surety in like manner. “They (Osun police and Jona) later arrested the complainants and took them to Abuja. When they got there, their bail was taken.
Now, their lawyer went to court for damages for his clients, saying that they should release their vehicles and that the court should give an order to stop further arrest and harassment of his clients.” Meanwhile, the monarch and other arrested persons, including Ismaila Oyawola, Hammed Ajiboye, Oyawola Morufu, Lekan Akeem, and Bright Benjamin, approached an Osun State High Court sitting in Ilesa and asked the court to declare several arrests, detention, and molestation on their persons by the Nigeria Police Force in the town as unlawful and abuse of their fundamental human rights.
The respondents in the case are: Mr. Jona, Inspector Anthony Nwambara, DCP Tunji Disu (Commander, IGP-IRT, Abuja), Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Force Intelligence Bureau, Abuja, Commissioner of Police, Osun State, ACP Uchenna Anionwo (Area Commander, Ilesa Command) and the Inspector-General of Police.
The applicants also asked the court to declare as illegal the forceful seizure and continuous detention of their respective vehicles, including Toyota Camry with registration number LSR 605 HN, Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata with registration number KTU 374 HP, since January 26, 2023 till date by the Police. They also sought for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents by themselves or through their assigns, agents, or representatives from inviting, arresting, detaining, molesting, or otherwise creating, interfering with, and/or violating, in any manner however, the applicants’ fundamental rights to dignity of their person, personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of movement and right to own moveable property in Nigeria as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended in connection with the excavator’s sale.
The applicant’s counsel, R.T Kolawole, prayed the court to grant all the reliefs sought, saying that the respondents were absent in court and not legally represented, having seen the proof of service in the court file. Delivering his ruling on the matter, Justice A. A Aderibigbe, ordered the State Commissioner of Police, CP Kehinde Longe, to arrest and remand the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to Ilesa correctional centre for flouting court order on the matter.
“I also order that all the vehicles of the applicants seized by the respondents and presently within the premise of the State Criminal Investigation Department, the Nigeria Police, Osogbo, Osun State, be released forthwith to the applicants by the respondents or the officer(s)-in charge of the state C.I.D., the Nigeria Police, Osogbo, Osun State,” the presiding judge further ruled.