They dig , they die
For many years Ijero in Ekiti State has been invaded by illegal miners who are foreigners and natives while the town is on the bridge to cave in, taiwoabiodun.com investigates
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Unperturbed as he exhibited unusual confidence while strolling about the huge excavation site for the proverbial goldmine. The young man, a Kano indigene simply identified as Ahmed was ably accompanied by his able lieutenant and labourer, Abubakar from Bauchi, who obviously was wearing a frowned face. He took his spade and headed towards the dug tunnel.
The duo hinted this reporter that they came on a voyage in search of precious stones which are readily available in commercial quantity in Ijero.
After waiting for over one hour for Abubakar to appear at the other end the long wait at the lonely and unsightly enclave appears to this reporter an endless one.
A trip to Ijero Ekiti in search of gold made these two friends left their homes to search for greener pastures
One of the residents revealed that the town city Centre is besieged daily by indigenes of different nationalities, name it: Togolese , Lebanese , Sudanese, Liberian, Cotonou , Senegalese, as well as Europeans who stormed the ancient town for similar reason.
However, the ecological threat caused by illegal mining activities in IJERO and its environs cannot be over emphasized even as the spiral effect on the water sourced majorly from the wells is believed to be injurious to the health of thousands of hapless IJERO residents.
Unless urgent steps are taken by concerned authorities, the entire IJERO community, despite the huge deposits of rich mineral resources, may soon face the imminence of socio- economic degradation resulting in health hazards, no thanks to mining operations giving outsiders false impression that all is well with them.
There is no doubt that the ancient town is blessed with mineral deposits.
According to Mr. M. Yewande “Ijero is blessed with solid mineral resources that is next to Jos. What we have here can sustain this town if well tapped .We have chiefly among them : limestone, gold, bauxite, copper, turmaline, cushy, feldspar ,cataract, foundry sand, costa mica, tantalite, ruby, rubilite, sodonite, prodonite, tin, columbite, diamond , bauxite, iron and kaolin.We equally have gold which is yet untapped”.
How illegal miners work
There are a lot of illegal miners in the land , according to a source who begged for anonymity. One of the illegal miners explained how they get the precious stones , “when we sight a certain stone we would dig that place of over 200 feet deep and this leads us again to sight another stone ( which acts as a pointer to where we are going) then we continue digging until we again come across some specific stones which leads you ahead that you are getting there for they are like a compass locating where these precious stones are”.
Aside this , the illegal miner continued “there is a chemical used to blast these stones , we would fix it with wire and move away from the place , at least some feet away and connect it with the battery then blast it and within 20 minutes to one hour its all over, then some stones would be exposed while water would be oozing from the area and the next thing to do is to use pumping machine to drain the water and continue blasting the rock sighted”.
How we get the land
Another illegal miner said “We buy some portion of land for 400 naira per day and will be checking whether we would get these precious stones , if we get them it’s our luck and if we don’t get them we have lost our 400 Naira. However we have a group and the group is divided into seven while each group would divide themselves and part ways and whoever gets luck to get a place where mineral deposits are would call others and then the digging starts “, the man explained
Death on the prowl
These mining sites had recorded a lot of deaths .”In a year over 10 official deaths were reported not to talk of those secretly buried. Many died when the excavated sand caves – in. Many at times illegal miners would fall into the deep trenches dug or heaped sand would fall on many and buried them alive “, said an illegal miner.
A young man said ” when they die we would use long rope to bring the corpses out from the dug holes. A source said ” at least an average of 20 people die in this process. Last year, I know about six people who died in the process.They tied a rope and went into the hole and tied it on the body of the boy and brought it out.However , while they announced the few natives that died there but we record high number of deaths from the Hausas and foreigners whose history are not known”. A man said his cousin died in one of the dug holes last year, he said ” we were at home when his friends came to inform us that my cousin had died while scooping the earth.We cried and cried and cried for he was yet to get married.
“Another incidence happened when a boy after he had finished (in the dug well ) a rope used to bring him out cut in the process and he fell back into the pit , he broke his neck and his back that was all.He was eventually tied again and brought out dead!.
“But when a foreigner dies they would say it is the wish of Allah and no cries while some would be buried in the ground”.
No one can be trusted as some unscrupulous natives connive with outsiders to loot the town.The financial gains realized from these resources is either pocketed or go into private pocket or taken away by these foreigners .
Most of the high class people one looks up to as rich men are thieves who assist these foreigners and put them through on how and where to get these products. In the end these so called big men would collect money and get away.
Yewande is concerned about them , he said ” there is no development here.There is no impact that these precious stones are found here because they are carted away with the connivance of big men in our community. Many have become sick because of the blasts of these stones. The illegal blasting has created a lot of problems here.Many developed hearing problems , mental disturbance, fear of lead poisoning has led to deaths of many. Madam Mary Adefebi said she had no peace and her sleep was always disrupted when she was admitted at the Specialist Hospital where blasting was done behind the hospital .” In the night I would be hearing blasts and my eardrum was always affected.A woman collapsed and died one day as a result of the blast because she was hypertensive”.
Another complainant whose house is close to the fields said ”many houses are shaking for they had dredged most of these places.One day houses would be sinking .I pray the State government should assist us in this.
Yewande said what happened in Zamfara ( as people were drinking poisoned water) will soon happen here.
The royal father who is not impressed about the environment and with frowned look said ” what we have here is pure looting , people come from Sudan, Moronvia, Togo, Cotonou , Senegal, Europe .
Group Captain Ropo Aiyegbusi ( retired) one of the notable indigenes of the state decried the situation and said the fault comes from leaders of the community who did not cooperate with the vigilante group ,he asked ” How many have they arrested? .It is connivance , some of our people do plan with these unscrupulous elements to steal our resources. We have many foreigners who are staying here illegally and because of our precious stones stay behind here stealing and looting ..
“How many of these people have the license to use? Do they pay to the local government what they are supposed to pay ? What of the state and the federal government ? Don’t we have law that covers mining? . I know it is not yet time for God to intervene ,People are dying silently”, he added.
An Honourable who begs for anonymity also lamented on how some notable and influential people connive with the natives and loot their precious stones.