BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
Following mining activities in some gold-rich communities of Osun State, some farmers have cried out over destruction of their farmlands, while other residents lamented water pollution.
The affected farmers in Atorin-Ijesa in Atakumosa East Local Government Area of the state decried the unabated activities of a mining firm, Lee Wei Wei, saying they had contributed to environmental degradation and loss of farm produce in the community.
Speaking, a farmer and traditional chief in the area, Babatunde Ajayi, whose cocoa and palm oil farmland was destroyed as a result of mining activities, lamented the development and sought for justice.
Ajayi said, “On July 15, 2021, gold miners encroached on a portion of my land. Hon. Sanya Omirin (a politician) was among those that brought the people into my farm to mine gold. All the designated Chiefs in Aye Aluko also colluded with the miners to destroy this place, but up till now, I have not been given a dime.
“I have reported this matter to the police and the case is presently in court. When the police officers asked If I signed any documents before the mining activities by the Chinese Lee Wei Wei on my land, I replied no. The non-consent is why I am still winning in court.”
Ajayi is one of many farmers in the community struggling to keep a livelihood after the miners allegedly destroyed their farmlands.
Narrating his ordeal, the Otun Baale of Ajebamidele Community, Chief Mukaila Adisa, said Chinese miners also entered his leased land where he planted cocoa.
“We did not benefit anything from them (miners). They only made us to suffer. I am one of those who went to meet them and asked them to dig a well for us for potable water but they did nothing till they left the area. Our wives fetch water from far distance and we buy bags of sachet water to drink,” Adisa said.
Findings revealed that residents of the area also struggled to get potable water for drinking, as some of their sources of water had been polluted.
Meanwhile, despite the banning of illegal mining in the state, The Point’s investigation revealed that artisanal miners have continued to operate at their various mining sites in Ijesaland.
The miners, it was noted, had refused to leave their various mining communities, just as they continued to extract minerals in the settlements of Ilesa and its environs about three months after Governor Ademola Adeleke shut down all mining activities in the state.
Investigations revealed that the artisanal miners, who are mainly northerners, did not for a day stop mining activities in communities like Ibodi, Itagunmodi, Ere-Ijesa, Idominasi, Osu, Iperindo and Ifewara, among others.
However, it was observed that mining companies, which were licensed by the state government, had stopped their operations since Adeleke shut down operations on mining sites on January 12, 2023. But the artisanal miners, it was noted, had continued their operations, though with caution.
When our correspondent visited Itagunmodi to monitor the level of compliance by the miners, it was observed that the level of compliance in the area was low as the local miners were sighted with their mining tools by the roadside.
The artisanal miners were seen carrying tools like diggers, shovels and iron buckets. Some of them were also sighted on motorcycles and tricycles coming back from their mining sites. The Point also observed that there was no presence of any security operative in the community.
While journeying down to Ilesa, our correspondent observed that there were fresh mining spots close to the roadside after Kajola, around Ora River. Also sighted in the area were artisanal miners with tools coming from the bush, obviously from mining sites.
Samuel Akinwale, an Iperindo resident, confirmed that the artisanal miners did not comply with the government’s directive. Akinwale said the local miners had continued to mine without the fear of being arrested by any security agent.
Also speaking, a resident of the state, Idowu Fadele, confirmed that the artisanal miners had continued to operate at their various mining sites in the community. Fadele said the artisanal miners would leave their various homes between 5am and 7am to embark on their mining operations and return late in the evening.
He said, “The local miners did not respect the directive of the state government; they have continued to operate without any fear. They have continued to degrade our land and environment. We were happy when the government ordered that all mining activities should be suspended in Osun, because our farmlands have been destroyed by these miners.
“But in spite of the government’s directives, some of these miners have continued to mine on our lands. They leave home between 5am and 7am with their tools.”
While trekking through some areas at Idominasi, Obokun Local Government of the state, our correspondent also sighted fresh mining spots of large holes left uncovered by the artisanal miners. A farmer in the town, Enoch Abimbola, said the directive of the government on the suspension of mining activities did not hold any effect on the artisanal miners.
Abimbola, who was full of emotion while speaking, said the local miners had continued to destroy their farmlands, with total disregard for the government’s directive.
Confirming the report, the Advocacy Coordinator of Ijesa Mineral Resources Development Forum, Wale Idowu, said the artisanal miners had continued to operate in the mining zones.
Idowu said large-scale mining in the zone had stopped immediately the governor announced the suspension of mining activities, noting that only the local miners had refused to comply with the directive.
He added that criminal activities, human and vehicular movement had reduced in the mining zones since the suspension of the mining activities.
He said, “We are all aware that Mr. Governor gave a suspending order of mining activities in Ijesaland and beyond. When you look at the compliance level, you cannot categorically say that we recorded 100 per cent compliance. What we are experiencing now has to do with the scavengers and artisanal mining. We still have some of these happening around particularly when you drive towards Ilesa/Osogbo road, you will find them at an area called Oora stream.
“Mining activities are also going on in the hinterlands. Let me mention specifically that mining activities are going on at a place we call Morocco, along Okebode, Atakumosa West Local Government. So, you can see there is no total compliance. But the large-scale miners are complying, except for Segilola, which is an explorer with their own licence obtained from Abuja.”
Idowu added, “Even with the suspension order, we are far from being satisfied because the impact of those who were suspended are still all over the place by way of the environmental hazard that they created and the land degradation. You would find out that up till now, issues on the mining sites were left unattended to, the lands were not reclaimed; that is not an ideal situation.
“We are not keeping quiet at our end. You would also recall that in 2020, we went all over the place, particularly all the mining sites as well as all communities in Ijesaland. We met and engaged with all the stakeholders and we repeated the same exercise in 2021. This, we did not do in 2022 because we spent last year to assess impact. But this year again, we are into another dimension. We are creating what we call Local Government Consultative Committees. We want to set up committees that will be so empowered and can engage prospective miners.”
ADELEKE DISTURBED, SEEKS NIS’ SUPPORT
Disturbed by the development, the state governor, Ademola Adeleke, has called for the support of the Federal Government through the Nigeria Immigration Service in combatting the menace of illegal mining activities mainly being perpetrated by non-Nigerians in the various mining sites across the state.
Governor Adeleke made this plea at the venue of the commissioning of Ilesa Passport Office by the Minister of Interior and former Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, recently.
He said, “I particularly urge the Service to work closely with the Osun State Government to stop illegal migration from outside the country into Osun State. We have several reports of non-Nigerians flocking into Osun state, especially for illegal gold mining businesses.
“Our government is working hard to stop illegal mining. We need the cooperation of the Immigration Service and other security agencies to stop aliens from swamping into our state in search of gold. We are reshaping our solid minerals policy to enhance partnership in this respect.”