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REPORTER’S DIARY: A day with Amotekun, illegal Chinese miners in Osun

The temperature in the early hours of the day had shown that it was going to rain and no amount of pleading with the gods was going to change that. It started slowly and in the blink of an eye, it became heavy. The percussion of water varies according to the surface it wets.

Except days when there are deadlines to meet, the early hours of Thursday, July 9, should be for breakfast and light rest. Nothing more. This was exactly what I did. The sound of the rain on my roof was conforming as I turned the pages of a long forgotten book.

Soon, my phone rang – the caller was Amitolu Shittu, the Director General of Amotekun in Osun State. I wondered if it was time for my long-awaited adventure. I had met with Mr Shittu in June to show interest in following the security operatives on operation anytime they are going to arrest illegal miners. After long hours of argument and counter argument, he assured me that he would allow me to go on an operation with them. However, this never happened until July 9.

The voyage

Upon answering Mr Amitolu’s call, he asked if I was in Osun and would be able to make it to Osogbo in order to join the security operatives in carrying out arrests. For security reasons, he refused to disclose the location of operation and cut the call.

Swiftly, I jumped off my bed and checked through the window with a half smile. The rain had reduced and all expected of me to meet my target was to call the nearest motorcyclist who could run as fast as possible to get to Osun capital, Osogbo within an hour. I got to my destination at 12:15pm. Mr Shittu welcomed me with the assurance that the trip would be fruitful saying “all intelligence tactics have been employed”. Still, he did not disclose the area where the operation would be carried out.

While waiting for my trip to an unknown mining site, it started rainy again. This time, heavier than what it was in the morning.

We won’t leave Mr Shittu’s house until some minutes past 4pm after the rain had subsided. “Let’s go!”, he told me as I entered the only Amotekun vehicle available at the moment. “We are going to Ilesha”, he instructed his driver. Mr Shittu sat behind the driver while I sat at the owner’s side. While on our way to Ilesha, the DG called the Commanders in the area to inform them of our trip.

I was aware that the Commissioner of Police in the state and other security heads were properly briefed about the outing but perhaps not on the particular forest where the ‘busting’ would be done. When we got to Ilesha, we headed to Ayeso Police Station which also serves as the Area Command of the area. The DG was there to let the area commander know that the community police were around. It was at the police station that major fighters who are trained hunters joined us for the real business of the day.

They were more than 50 Amotekun officers who came with extra five vehicles with fully armed men. My first sight on the individuals going for the operation was all that scared me. I asked if we were going for war or arrest, an officer responded saying: “miners are harmful and they sometimes make effort to overpower us. They are hardened criminals.” What then will be the fate of an harmless reporter? The accurate response failed to come.

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published an investigation on how illegal mining activities thrive in Osun State, Southwest Nigeria with the support of police.

While some of the perpetrators use names of influential people without their knowledge, many reportedly receive blessings from them and even get the support of monarchs in the mining areas.

The activities of some Chinese and local gold miners have increased danger capable of endangering the lives of the people in the environment.

Nigerian government said it has commenced moves to stop the illegal activities “killing Nigeria’s economy and environment.”

Amokekun

The governors of the six states of the Southwest region of Nigeria on January 9, launched a security outfit, codenamed operation Amotekun to defend the region rising insecurity accentuated by indiscriminate killings, kidnappings, banditry and destruction of farmlands.

who agreed that the community policing is partnership and the new initiative will be done in partnership with the police to deal with crime-related challenges.

By April, Osun governor, Gboyega Oyetola launched a taskforce including Amotekun to fight illegal mining activities. In their first outing, they arrested 27 illegal miners in the state. Those apprehended included 17 Chinese nationals and 10 locals, including a local traditional ruler (Baale).

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