By Emmanuel Nduka
Troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces say they have raided a suspected illegal mining site that was being run by Chinese expatriates in the Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Akwa Ibom State is in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
The raid was disclosed by Major General Edward Buba, Director of Defence Media Operations while briefing journalists on Thursday, September 7, at the Nigerian Defence Headquarters, Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He said the raid which happened on August 28, followed “human intelligence”, and was carried out by “troops in conjunction with officials of the Akwa Ibom State Government”.
According to General Buba, the illegal mining site was being run by Rotai Mining Company, a Chinese firm. He said the Chinese expatriates were “mining mineral identified as Titanium Ore without due authorization”, and “claimed to have applied for mining license pending approval”.
On other operations of troops in the Niger Delta region, he said “On 1 September 2023, following a tip off, troops raided suspected militant camp at in Ahoada West LGA of Rivers State. Troops made contact and arrested a suspected militant/bunkerer. Troops recovered one Pump action gun, 2 live cartridges, 2 rounds of 7.62 mm NATO ammo, one round of 7.62 mm Special ammo and NA uniforms”.
On air operations targeted at oil thieves in the region, he said based on intelligence, the air component of the military conducted air strikes “on illegal refining activities in Bille and Gogokiri”, both in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State. “The location was sighted to be active and subsequently acquired. The locations were attacked with rockets and cannons, destroying their equipment and reservoirs”.
“Overall, troops of Operation DELTA SAFE destroyed 81 dugout pits, 65 boats, 141 storage tanks, 15 vehicles, 4 motorcycles, 174 cooking ovens, 8 pumping machines, 3 generators, 5 speedboats and 77 illegal refining sites. Also, troops recovered 869,900 liters of stolen crude oil, 538,875 liters of illegally refined AGO, 350 litres DPK, 82,150 liters of PMS, 4 weapons and 3 assorted ammunitions. Troops also arrested 67 suspected oil thefts”.
He further warned that the Nigerian Armed Forces will “continue to apply strong military pressure on groups undermining the national security of the country”.
“It is clear that, the terrorist and their cohorts cannot win in the face of ongoing military pressure against them. Accordingly, the terrorists and their cohorts are encouraged to drop their arms and rejoin society to provide a better life for themselves and their children. They risk annihilation if they fail to do so.
“Nigerians need to know that, we are in this together. The military is with you. The military will work tirelessly to ensure your safety and security. Importantly, the trust and cooperation from supportive groups being witnessed today is unprecedented. The inputs from these groups is making a difference in our operations. Citizens are encouraged to Know Something, Say Something and we will do something about it,” he added.
Recurrent Illegal Mining Activities Of Chinese Expatriates In Nigeria
Illegal mining activities by Chinese expatriates in Nigeria is not new.
Heritage Times HT recalls that in 2020, at least 27 illegal miners, including 17 Chinese, were arrested in Osun State, southwestern Nigerian.
The 17 Chinese nationals were arrested alongside 10 Nigerians, including a local traditional ruler.
Their arrest came five months after a report by local website – Premium Times reported that a “large” number of illegal miners pursued from Zamfara State in northwestern Nigeria, had been carrying out their unauthorized business in Osun, broadly working for Chinese firms.
Also, in July this year, the Zonal Command of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Kwara State, arrested 13 Chinese nationals for allegedly engaging in illegal mining activities in the state.
Health Implications/Maltreatment Of Nigerians By Chinese
The illegal activities of the Chinese in Nigeria has left arguments on social media, with Nigerians calling on authorities to take action to stop the illegal activities in the western African nation.
In 2020 shortly after the arrest in Osun, Nigeria’s House of Representatives ordered a probe of the legality of Chinese nationals and their businesses based in the country, amid reports of alleged maltreatment of Nigerian citizens in China.
At the time, videos of Nigerians living legitimately in China being maltreated were flooding the Nigerian social media space. The maltreatment also included physical assault.
This is as Nigerian public health experts have warned of human health and environmental hazards that these illegal mining activity poses.
Reacting to the arrest of the Chinese in 2020, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Zamfara State Governor, Abdullahi Binuyo, told journalists that no responsible government will allow its land to be degraded by unauthorized individuals.
“The people you see here neither have genuine mining licenses nor are they registered with the government. What they claim to have is Exploration Licenses, which does not allow them to mine, the way they are doing. So, we will prosecute them and make them pay for damages.
“Apart from flouting the government’s COVID-19 order by refusing to stay at home, they have also created an environmental disaster for us, by poisoning our river which is a major public health concern for us,” he was quoted as saying.