By Oluseye Ojo

Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake, yesterday said powerful Nigerians that have been sponsoring illegal mining activities in the country have been threatening him for exposing them.

Speaking to journalists when he paid assessment visit to the site of last Tuesday’s explosion that claimed five lives, injured scores of people, and damaged dozens of houses, he assured that he has remained undaunted in the onerous task of ensure that sanity returns to the mining sector.

Alake had in December 2023 when be appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals for the 2024 budget defence raised the alarm that “One pernicious discovery that we have made is that a lot of these banditry, terrorism, and insecurity that we associate with this sector are actually sponsored by illegal miners.

“These are not your artisanal miners. They are not the people who pick gold on the ground. These are heavy and powerful individuals in our country. And they are Nigerians. They are not foreigners. Yes, you can see foreigners as symptoms, but they are not the disease. Nigerians are the powers behind those foreigners that you see on the streets. We are identifying them and employing various strategies, both kinetic and non-kinetic.”

But he told journalists at the scene of te blast in Ibadan: “If you followed my budget defence at the House of Representatives,  I did say categorically that powerful Nigerians are behind the banditry associated with illegal mining in this country. I said it openly. Of course, I have since received threats. But we are undaunted because things have to be said.

“And in any case. I wasn’t saying anything new. Most people knew. Most people have been saying it. I only gave it an official stamp, and it is based on intelligence reports…

“These bandits, being sponsored by highly placed people, have access to heavy funding and they have heavy arsenal, weaponry, arms and ammunition. They even lay mines on ground against our ground forces that are moving into the forest to dislodge them.

“That is why we require the engagement of the military. That is why I have been meeting with the Minister of Defence and we have mapped out all the strategies so that the military will go into the forest and clear them and the mines before the new security outfit we are rejigging at the moment comes to the fore.”

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The government, he said, is mapping out strategies to tackle insecurity across the country, adding that the Federal Government is working with all the critical stakeholders – states, local governments and host communities to achieve the objectives.

On the Ibadan explosion, Alake, who was accompanied to the site of the explosion by the Chief Medical Director of University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Prof Abiodun Otegbayo; Special Adviser on Security to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State Fatai Owoseni, and were received on the state by the incident manager, Prof Temitope Alonge, who is a former Chief Medical Director, UCH,  assured people that the Federal Government would work with the state government to make informed decisions. Justice, he promised, would be done.

“We are awaiting the final forensic report of all the  investigations conducted by the various agencies of government before making a pronouncement on the issue. The agencies are all working round the clock to ensure that  there is an authentic and verifiable forensic report to the Federal Government.

“Then, Federal Government will be on a solid platform to make an informed judgment and a categorical statement. Anything before then would be presumptuous, preciptate and could be misleading at the end of the day.”

Alake, who visited hospitalised victims at UCH, Ibadan also paid a courtesy call on Govenor Seyi Makinde. He commended Makinde for his swift response to the incident, describing his actions as impressive.

“After going through the site and going to the hospital to see the victims and to commiserate with them, their families and loved ones, there is need for me to pay a courtesy call on the governor, who has done commendable job in terms of speed of his response to this unfortunate incident.”

‘’Recall that I told you that the President put a phone call to him, to commend him and sympathise with him and the people of the state and the victims and also issued a statement after expressing his own sentiments.

‘’So, this is a combination of the establishment and acknowledgement of the Federal Government of what the Oyo State Governor and government have done. This is very remarkable. We are all impressed. Nobody wishes anybody any disaster, but we wish for our people to respond commendably to any unfortunate situation.”