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Peanut for gold…

Gwargawo village in Maradun local government of Zamfara state is fast gaining popularity among the people of the area due to presence of some Chinese…

Gwargawo village in Maradun local government of Zamfara state is fast gaining popularity among the people of the area due to presence of some Chinese men who are camped there with the mission of exploring and exploiting the solid mineral resources that abound in the area.

The village, which is situated about 15 kilometres east of Maradun town, has virtually no presence of state and local governments, in terms of infrastructure or any social amenity. Indeed, it is so remote and isolated that one cannot even imagine a white man dwelling there, as there is no access road that can lead straight to the village.

The people of this community were surprised to find Chinese men, almost fully settled there and carrying out mining activities along with some local people whom they employed as guides, guards and workers.

When this reporte arrived there, the scene was like that of the arrival of unwanted visitor, which created an  unease, as everyone there  abandoned what they were doing and focused attention on this reporter to see why and what took him to this hideout of the Asian miners.

Sunday Trust met only two Chinese workers who were sleeping comfortably in their beds, secure from insects and flies by mosquito nets strapped to the beddings in a room built with aluminium sheets. Behind the room was a solar panel which supplied the camp with electricity, while a satellite dish was also installed to connect them with outside world.

One of the workers called Mohammed Bello, who told Sunday Trust correspondent that he came from Jos, Plateau State to join the Asian workers, said the Chinese men could not speak English, but were taken to the mining site by the Emir of Maradun, Alhaji Muhammadu Garba Tambari, and that their mission was to mine gold and other solid minerals in the area. A source at the state ministry of environment and solid minerals, who spoke under anonymity revealed that the Chinese were mining tantalite, gelana, and mostly gold, which Zamfara state has large deposits of, mostly concentrated in Maradun and Anka local governments.

As the reporter was discussing with Bello, the Head of Gwargawo ward arrived, along with one sarkin yaki, who was said to be `an eye of the king,` with the charge to ward off any intruder from the project being executed in the isolated community.

The ward Head, Tudu Muhammadu, said about 13 farmlands had been acquired by an unnamed company at a rate ranging from N100,000 to N150,000.00. He said they did not actually know what the Chinese would do with the farmlands they  had acquired, only that they knew it was a company that would utilize the lands.

But a youth who didn’t disclose his name said if the owners of the land had known the mission of the foreigners, they wouldn’t have sold the farms because it had become clear that there are minerals deposits which the Chinese wanted to dig out. Our reporter noticed that machineries and other mining equipment were kept all over the site, and mining activities had already started, as manyplaces were excavated, while heaps of sand were filled at different locations.

At the second site, known as Gonar Gwaiba, said to be owned by the Emir of Maradun, our reporter met four Chinese men who also erected some shelter, like the one at Gwargawo. When their team leader was informed about the mission of our reporter, he replied in Pidgin English, saying “Emir sabi your coming”, meaning, was the Emir aware of the reporter’s visit to the site?

Sunday Trust correspondent simply said no. Then, he was asked to seek the permission of the Emir before doing anything on the site, taking a long, malicious, and resentful look at the reporter.

When our reporter contacted the Emir, he refused to speak. His secretary, Muhammadu Maccido, who informed him that a reporter wanted to talk to him about the mining activities in his domain, returned to say that the Emir had declined to speak on the matter, and that was the end of it.   

Investigation by our reporter showed that there was an air of suspicion among the people of the community, as the conditions under which the owners of the farmlands were taken over by the Chinese company, who are believed to be working in tandem with the traditional ruler, may not be clear to the people. Among the elite, it was suspected that the activities of the Chinese were illegal.

When contacted, the officer in charge of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Natural Resources in Gusau, who spoke under anonymity, said he was not aware of any mining activity in Maradun Local Government. In the same vein, the state Commissioner for Environment and Solid Minerals, Alhaji Abubkar Mohammed Maru, said his ministry, too, was not aware of the presence of the Chinese miners. In essence, he said he would contact security agencies to arrest them. He made this statement twice on the two occasions our reporter contacted him on the issue.

But one Alhaji Aliyu Gusau who was apparently informed about our reporter`s visit to the mining site, claimed that the Federal Ministry of Mines in Gusau was fully aware of their activities.

He alleged that the head of the office in the state capital was in a clear picture of what was going on.  Further checks by our reporter revealed that the mining activities may be the handiwork of a syndicate which is working in concert with some influential personalities in the state.

A top government official told our reporter that, “if it is not the work of a syndicate, how can foreigners summon the courage to come and start exploring the mineral resources in a very remote area in another country with the kind of confidence the Chinese men carry out their activities at both Gwargawo and Gonar Gwaiba sites?