Nigeria suspends mining, orders foreigners out of Zamfara state

Mining activities have been suspended with foreigners ordered out of Zamfara state in northwest Nigeria by the federal government.

The state is currently enmeshed in bandits-led killings that have left hundreds dead with several communities displaced, provoking a huge protest on Saturday in the country’s capital, Abuja.

Nigeria’s Police Inspector General, Mohammed Adamu on Sunday at the State House in Abuja told journalists that the action was taken due to intelligence information that has linked mining activities with the crises.

The Nigerian government has now threatened to revoke the mining license of any foreigner or firm that continues mining activities in the state, after the directive.

It has also dispatched a special police operation in the northwest region to tackle the armed banditry, kidnapping and criminality that has seen many citizens killed or kidnapped.

“I want to appeal to Nigerians that we should not politicize this tragic situation in Zamfara. How can I be indifferent to the senseless killings and kidnapping of my fellow citizens by bandits, and the deep trauma and impoverishment that these attacks inflict on them?” Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President had said after Saturday’s massive protest by civil society groups in Abuja which had popular TV personality, Kadaria Ahmed in attendance.

While offering his condolences to families of those killed or kidnapped by bandits, President Buhari gave an insight into the new security operation in the area.

“Operation Sharan and the newly-launched Operation Puff Adder are focused on Zamfara, Kaduna (including the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway), Katsina, Kogi, and States. These are all multi-agency Operations, bringing together the Military, Police, the DSS, and others,” Buhari said.

To calm public nerves and underscore the government’s resolve to step up its crackdown on bandits, President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari was at the announcement with other security chiefs such as heads of Nigeria’s secret police, State Security Services and that of the National Intelligence Agency, in attendance. The President is currently on a tour of the Middle East for IMF and other meetings.

“The crisis in Zamfara is making life hell for villagers, yet it is clearly low down on the list of government priorities. These killings must stop immediately, and those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials.” Amnesty International said on Sunday while joining the campaign for immediate action by the Nigerian government, after about 50 people were reported dead on Friday.

“Our people are being killed like they are flies, that is why we are out on a protest. The leaders in the North have let us down. People are not talking,” Ahmed, a native of Zamfara, had said while pulling her media influence during the protest to demand an immediate action to stop the killings.

Campaigners want an immediate declaration of a state of emergency that would allow a military intervention to crackdown on the rampant armed banditry in the gold-rich state where artisanal mining has led to the formation of gangs by rival groups seeking control of minefields.

Some foreign firms operating in the area have also been accused of being behind some of the arms flow into the area.  The illegal minerals mining in Zamfara is dominated by Asians. Past efforts by the Nigerian government to regulate mining activities have been frustrated by communities that connive with foreigners.


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