Despite the presence of terror groups — Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the bandits’ faction of Dogo Gide — illegal mining activities continued in Kurebe and other surrounding villages, even after many residents deserted the axis following double-edged attacks from the military and terrorists.
Claiming to have acted upon intelligence, the Nigerian Air Force killed at least 14 villagers in Kurebe including girls and a woman. The operations in April and August last year mistargeted the unharmed locals, leaving the terrorists unhurt.
The survivors of the military attacks fled to Udawa, a neighbouring community in Kaduna, and other places in Niger State. But the terrorists stayed back, making money from the illegal mining activities and demanding little from farmers who fell prey to them at times.
A local miner, *Yeri, believes the terrorists demanded less from their victims because they get more money from the mining activities. Two other local miners corroborated him but were afraid of speaking [in detail] about it.
Into The Dark World Of Terrorism Funding
Local miners who worked with the companies explained that there are three mining sites in the axis — one at Maikanwa, another at Santali and the other at Dagbace. One of the mined stones, Konzites, would be packaged in cement sacks and transported to Udawa, later to Lagos and finally, to China. The transportation chain was confirmed in a video obtained by our reporter.
On many occasions, the terrorists had seized the mined stones and stalled operations until they were bribed with millions of naira and motorcycles, the local miners revealed.
“When we finished excavating, the terrorists would not allow us to take the stones out until they were given money amounting to N5 million or more,” *Yeri disclosed.
“The owners of the companies would be notified and the money would be gathered for the terrorists,” he added. “It’s a recurring event; even motorcycles were taken to them. That’s the truth but they don’t want it to be exposed and they don’t want it to end.”
Miners Dialogued With Dogo Gide’s Mother
Yeri revealed how delegates were sent to dialogue with Dogo Gide’s mother at Palalli, a village where she gave birth to the kingpin about 30 years ago, WikkiTimes gathered.
“They visited Dogo Gide’s mother and they discussed with her to talk to her son to allow people to do their work…,” he recalled. “At first, we were afraid of them but now it has become part of us, we are no longer afraid of them. As I am talking to you now, I swear to God even if it’s a hundred of them on the road, I will go.”
This was not the first time the terror kingpin’s mother would intercede between civilians and her terrorist son. She had done that many times, locals including community leaders said. For instance, she took part in the negotiation for the release of students kidnapped from Federal Government College, Yauri in Kebbi State.
In an audio clip exclusively obtained by WikkiTimes, Ibrahim Usman Adam, one of the leading actors involved in coordinating illegal mining in the axis, confessed the dialogue with the terror kingpin’s mother before operations could begin at the sites.
Ibrahim, according to local miners, doubles as site manager for Eso Terra.
The mining company, trying to exonerate itself, stopped paying from its pocket; forcing local miners into hard labour to extract stones that would be sold to grease the terrorists’ palms.
“So, the bandits were paid N3 million every week,” one of the local miners said.
When confronted with our findings on September 9, Ibrahim declined to comment. Initially, he denied affiliation with Eso Terra and Kurebe community. He later opened up when our reporter told him about the evidence at our disposal.
“I am not working with Eso Terra now. It was then,” he said, briskly, advising that further questions be channelled to government authorities.
“You can go to Shiroro and meet the chairman to ask questions about the communities. Even though my company works in Kurebe, you cannot ask me,” Ibrahim yelled.
Also, Metteden Abba Abdulrahman, a director at the company, denied ever operating at Kurebe. Although the director did not deny knowing Ibrahim, he said he had never worked with him.
“I know Ibrahim as a normal person. He’s not my site manager,” Abdulrahman said over the phone.
He explained that the “self-acclaimed” site manager came to him, about three years ago, alongside one Ali Arzuka and “their Chinese” investors
“They wanted us to partner with them but I realised their style of mining was not up to standard,” he told WikkiTimes. “So Eso Terra has no business with bandits or the community.”
He claimed Ibrahim and the “Chinese” used his title to gain access to the community.
“At the time, my title was about to expire and we could not go ahead with the partnership,” he clarified.
Abdulrahman noted that there are laws guiding mining activities and his company would not do anything at the expense of any community.
Research conducted by SBM Intelligence; a Lagos-based analytical group revealed how Chinese companies bribed terrorist groups in some parts of the country to access mining sites.
SMB Intelligence shared its findings with The Times, a British newspaper, revealing videos of militant leaders boasting how powerful they had become that Chinese miners working in their strongholds had to pay “rent”.
“These guys are perfectly willing to pay off whoever needs to be paid off and have no qualms about it…,” Ikemesit Effiong, SBM’s head of research, had said.
A Former Commissioner Among The Syndicate?
Samaila Ibrahim Kuta, a former commissioner of youths and sports in Niger State, has been into local mining for a while, some local miners who had worked with him said.
The former commissioner, popularly known as Datti Majelo, owns Majelo Global Resources Limited, WikkiTimes can report. He had at some time, last year, partnered with the other company to further plunder the resources in the community.
Unlike Eso Terra, Kuta, the local miners said, doesn’t have an excavator. “His company used dynamite to blast the rock,” said a local miner. “And that is why he joined hands with them [Eso Terra].
The partnership, according to our source, had fetched him N125 million between last year to now.
Kuta also feigned innocence when contacted. “I don’t have a licence or mining operation in Kurebe area,” he said via WhatsApp on September 10. “I can grant you interview on this.”
When contacted a day after, he said “there is no evidence” concerning his operation in the area “because I am not working in that area and there is no evidence.”
The former commissioner admitted he had once operated in the area. “The last time we went there was before this insecurity — that was like 10 years ago,” he claimed.
Datti told WikkiTimes Eso Terra’s Ibrahim and Arzuka “were the ones operating in the area.”
Asked about his partnership with the duo, he said there was nothing like such.
“We don’t have partnership per se. What happened was that they encroached into my licence before it expired,” claimed Datti. “So, I got information that they were working in my area under my licence.”
He continued: “I reported the matter to the Federal Mines Officer last year and that was the first time I saw Ibrahim and Aruka. We met with Mine Officers in Minna and the district head of Allawa.
“The mine officer said there was no way he could confirm my claim that they were working under my license until he visited the area and he said the area is not accessible. I said it is not a place I can also go, but I remembered vividly, Ibrahim said they can visit the place.”
Kuta, however, declined to comment when further grilled about how the allegedly fetched him millions of naira within a year.
Companies Defied Government Order
Last year, the immediate past administration of Abubakar Sani Bello suspended mining activities in three local councils — Shiroro, Munya and Kagara — prone to bandits’ attacks. But mining continues unchecked in the unsafe sites.
The suspension was in reaction to an attack on a mining site at Ajata Aboki, Gurmana ward, Shiroro LGA, where scores [including security operatives] were killed. The primed terrorists also kidnapped four Chinese workers and some civilians.
The incumbent government of Mohammed Umaru Bago reiterated the suspension, vowing to end illegal mining activities exacerbating insecurity in the state.
However, the governor and some of his cabinet members had a meeting with some of the actors including Ibrahim, Arzuka and some Chinese investors on Tuesday, September 5. While pictures from the meeting were exclusively obtained, WikkiTimes could not gather details of what was discussed.
Mohammed Umaru Bago, Niger State Governor and Ibrahim Usman Adam, one of the leading actors in the mining industryThe governor and his cabinet members with some Chinese investors led by Ibrahim and Ali Arzuka
Arzuka also denied working with Eso Terra and in Kurebe. “We have a licence to go the place but it is not safe for us,” he claimed. But he confirmed his affiliation with a Chinese mining company: Ming Xin Mineral Separation Nigeria Ltd incorporated in Jos South LGA, Plateau State.
But his words were not true, WikkiTimes understands. Sometime in July last year, Arzuka represented Eso Terra in a meeting attended by youths and community leaders from Kurebe village.
In the center: The governor and Arzuka shaking hands
The meeting, according to youth and community leaders, was held at Aske Hotel along Neteco Road, Tunga in Minna, Niger State. At the meeting, issues of signing a community development agreement were discussed. But the things agreed upon — construction of school, road and borehole — were frustrated by worsening insecurity, Shehu Yahaya, a Kurebe monarch whose jurisdiction covers the mining sites, said.
State Ministry Worried
Engineer Adamu Garba Musa, Director of Mining in the Niger State Ministry of Solid and Mineral Resources, said the ministry is baffled by the fact that mining activities thrive in such an unsafe setting.
“We heard of Eso Terra through the chairman of Kurebe youth association,” he told WikkiTimes by phone. He believes the company seemed to have obtained a title from the federal government and refused to show its presence to the state ministry.
“We forwarded the petition [written by the youth association] to the Federal Mining office in Minna [Niger State capital] to give us information about those companies. Up to now, they haven’t told us anything,” he explained.
The director said his ministry had invited the mining companies three weeks ago, but they “refused to show up.”
“We don’t even know they have an agreement with bandits,” Musa said in reaction to our findings. “We also ask that question: If bandits are disturbing people, how come the company is working successfully?”
Asked what action the ministry will take regarding what we unearthed, Musa said: “We will just make a recommendation to the necessary authority… to tell them this is what is happening. That the mining company they gave a title is working hand in hand with bandits.”
Further checks show that Eso Terra and Majelo Global Resources Limited Global Services were accredited by the federal government, data pulled from the Nigeria Mining Cadastre Office (NMCO), revealed.
The data confirmed the presence of the companies in Shiroro LGA. NMCO is a body responsible for the administration and management of mineral titles under the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
Daniel Garba Gadzama, the Federal Mines Officer (FMO) at the Federal Ministry of Mineral Resources in Niger State explained that he knew the companies but did not know they were operating.
“They came to me about two years ago with a licence and I gave them a commencement letter, but I don’t know the way they were operating as you told me now,” Gadzama explained, adding the area the miners were operating was “not secure.”
The FMO said he would share our findings with his director in Abuja.
A staffer at the Federal Ministry of Mineral Resources who spoke to WikkiTimes in confidence said Eso Terra did not even have a file in the office.
Yahaya, the monarch, said he was not aware the mining company was bribing terrorists. Yet, he confirmed its presence in the banditry-torn community.
The monarch begged the government to end the insecurity ravaging his community.
Umar Ango, the Chairman of Kurebe Youth Development Association (KUYUDA) corroborated the monarch. “I don’t know whether the company bribes the terrorists, but we know they are illegally operating in our community and we are not benefitting anything,” he said, noting the youth association has reported and petitioned the companies.
In a WhatsApp chat with WikkiTimes, the governor said his administration would investigate our findings.
“Thank you very much, we’ll investigate this report accordingly,” he wrote. “We’re already ahead in combating all mining activities in the state. In a short time from now, you’ll feel our impact, Insha Allah.”
We altered and concealed our sources’ names for security reasons.
This report was completed with the support of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development and the Open Society Foundations.