The recent death of a food vendor, Mrs Wumi Babatope, a resident of Ibodi in Osun State at a mining site in the nearby village of Afon, once again brought to the fore the alarming rate of violent crimes in mining communities across the state.
The availability of mineral resources should ordinarily be a source of prosperity for many towns and villages spread across Atakumosa East and Atakumosa West local government areas of the state, especially where large deposits of these nature’s gifts have been confirmed, but the contrary is the case in the communities.
The communities are not only wallowing in under-development, with fear of natural disaster in the no distant future, owing to massive land degradation; the inhabitants also, almost on a daily basis, experience violent crimes.
The huge presence of miners, mostly labourers, from the northern part of the country as Mali and Republic of Niger, is turning these mineral-rich communities to hotbeds of violent crimes.
The spill over of criminal activities linked to mining is felt in many nearby towns and villages, raising concerns about the safety of the entire state if the situation is allowed to further degenerate.
From kidnapping to banditry, land grabbing, killings, rape and illicit substances abuse, the Osun mineral-rich communities have had to grapple with some heinous crimes that have left bitter taste in the mouth, just as the development many indigenes envisaged before allowing the miners access to their land has continued to elude them.
Before the latest incident involving a food vendor, who was allegedly raped to death in Afon, the Alagun of Itagunmodi in the Atakumosa West Local Government Area of the state, Oba Michael Famadewa-Kosile, had in May 2019 called for the suspension of mining activities across Ijesaland, because the presence of miners had complicated the security situation in the area.
He said the state of insecurity across Ijesaland was directly a resultant effect of mining activities going on in many villages in the area.
The monarch, who was also abducted by gunmen suspected to be Fulani bandits, while narrating his ordeal said, “I was kidnapped around 4.30pm by 20 men on May 30, 2018 at the Okiika junction on my way home from hospital. I was thoroughly beaten by my abductors, who took N1.7m from my vehicle. I managed to escape when the men slept off.
“Hausa miners have been living in Itagunmodi since 1920. I became king in 1995. Rather than stop mining, the government introduced the collection of levies. The solution to the security challenge is a total ban on mining.”
While Oba Famadewa-Kosile was lucky to escape from his abductors alive, 22-year-old Tope Ayoola, a resident of Iyere, another mining town in Atakumosa West, was rather unlucky, as a shot reportedly fired by a Fulani, who was fighting some Hausa gold dealers in the market on Monday, December 2, 2019, claimed his life.
An apprentice welder in Ilesha, Tope, according to his dad, Kayode Ayoola, had barely settled down in the town on the day of the incident, when news of his demise from a stray bullet was delivered to him.
The incident later led to clashes between the Hausa and Yoruba residents, which claimed three lives, while some stalls belonging to the non-natives were burnt down.
Sources in the town later blamed a suspected Fulani bandit, simply identified as Baguga, who was accused of lying in ambush and robbing some Hausa gold dealers, who were returning from their mining sites, for the crises.
The said Babuga, when accosted in the market by the victims, allegedly brought out a gun and fired a shot, which reportedly hit Tope a few minutes after he returned from Ilesha, where he was an apprentice welder.
Although the Osun State Police Command gave an assurance that the prime suspect, Baguga, would be arrested, there is no record that he was ever nabbed.
A resident of Ibodi, Lekan Awotoye, in a chat with our correspondent, lamented the insecurity that many residents were exposed to as a result of the huge presence of labourers working in mining sites that litter the area.