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Inside Osun community ‘under siege’ by Chinese miners

Inside Osun community ‘under siege’ by Chinese miners
September 30
12:20 2021

Farebami, a rural community located at Ilesa West LGA, Osun state, has been swamped by miners who are in the business of exploring land in search of precious stones. And these miners have wrecked the homes and farms of the residents with their inordinate activities.

The small community, largely inhabited by farmers and artisans, is now dominated by Chinese nationals and their labourers. 

When TheCable visited, the labourers were seen seated under a wooden shield, refilling their bellies after a long day of digging the vast land before them.

A signpost welcoming you to Farebami community

Landowners, farmers and other residents say they feel abandoned by the government and helpless in the hands of foreigners who milk them in broad daylight in their own community.


Some of the residents accused Adekunle Aromolaran, the Owa Obokun of Ijeshaland, of allowing foreigners into their land. Community representatives alleged that foreign miners found their way into the community through a member of Giwa Akinleye, one of the popular families in Ilesa — but TheCable could not confirm the claim.

Representatives of the community

According to section 7 (3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), there is provision for local government councils to “participate in economic planning and development of the area”, but in the case of Farebami community, the Ilesa west LGA has not been able to use the proceeds from solid minerals for the development of the area.



The complaints of the residents range from exploitation and land grabbing to fear of heavy flooding and contamination, but a major concern that caught TheCable’s attention was the burrowing of land near buildings in the community.

Although owners of these houses have registered their complaints with their community leaders and had gone to report their discomfort to the Chinese miners and their local representatives, there is no relief yet. 

The miners drilled so close to the house of one of the residents said that he feared his building would cave in. 

He said he had reported his predicament to the Chinese miners and the locals abetting them but the meetings with them were futile.


Speaking with TheCable, Ade, a bricklayer, said all he wants is compensation for the destruction of his house.

“When some community members rose up to plead with the Chinese in charge on my behalf, saying that ‘don’t you know that the person you are working next to his house is affected?’. They were given the option to pay me, and with the intention that when I receive the money, I would quickly go [and] purchase a new piece of land in another area,” he said.


“We didn’t go there to discuss money alone, we also said they should come around, see the damages themselves but they stubbornly disagreed. When we got to meet with them, the white man I met said he knows what we want, but a Yoruba man, who is a close associate with the Chinese, said since their mining activities have not directly affected my house, that they can’t give me any money.

“When the community persisted in their call, they promised to do something before the end of that month. Before the month ended at the time, they had packed their equipment and disappeared.”


Seun, another resident, told TheCable he fears the water logged from mining activities may soon overrun his house. 

He said the Chinese miners are inaccessible, and that they have armed guards that prevent anyone from reaching them.


Seun also said one Yolu, a local, who serves as an agent to the Chinese miners, always takes them around in search of land to explore for solid minerals.

“I’m in eternal penury, and yet I manage to build a one room so that I can manage it, but it’s what they want to take away from me,” he said.


Olatunji, a resident, said besides the digging so close to his house, the noise from the mechanical equipment used for the mining activity deprives him of sleep.

Olatunji standing next to his house

“The noise pollution is terrible because if someone can’t sleep for months it affects them. Besides, I can’t even sleep with my two eyes closed because I don’t know the extent they will dig. If you look now, they are close to my backyard, and that is why I always check on their activities every minute,” he said.

“They are supposed to pity us. Can I be wealthy and build this kind of house and live there?”


In search of precious stones, the miners have burrowed lands, polluted water and endangered farming in the community.

 Owolabi, who was at his farm when TheCable visited, decried the damage done to the farms and farmers in the community. 

Owolabi said although the Muhammadu Buhari administration always reiterates the need for citizens to go into farming, there is no protection for farmers like him against ravaging miners.

“Look at the water, they have polluted the water; when I used the water for my crops, none of the crops grew to be good or edible. But whoever we cannot confront or defeat, we always hand such a person to God,” he said.

“We don’t know where they are from; we just saw them out of the blue, and they started pulling everything down. I have not reported to anyone, because all the time I would waste in reporting, I should just use that to face my business, that is better.

“Because even if we report to the government too, they will keep postponing the meetings. There is nothing we can do. I’ll have to wait till the dry season before I can plant anything again.

“If we can find help it would make things better because the future of this area frightens me. All the cocoa that we can rely on has been uprooted. What is the future of the farmers’ children? Because many of the farmers who own cocoa farms inherited them from their fathers, so if they lose everything now, what does the future hold for their children?

“And the federal government keeps saying that citizens should go into farming, now it’s the farming that has been destroyed. All these areas that they have dug, nothing that you can plant there will survive, so what kind of farming is that?

“You can’t try to enter or step on some places here, you may sink into one of the numerous pits that have been dug. We appeal to the government to do something to help us from this oppression.”


While the talk about removing mining and mineral resources from the exclusive legislative list lingered, Teslim Folarin, senator representing Oyo central, called for the removal of the exclusive list from the constitution, arguing that this will enable states to grow at their own pace.

On this backdrop, speaking with TheCable, a senior administrative officer at the Ilesa West LGA, said the revenue from the mining activities in the state does not “concern” the local council, and that only the state and the federal government share the “proceeds”.

She said the state government has refused to allow the LGAs to have a share of the revenue generated from mining in the state.

“That is what we are facing with this dispensation. The federal and the state are collecting the IGR,” she said.

“Sometime last year, I had an idea of this issue you raised because we have two local councils in Ilesa West. This is Ilesa West local council, we also have Ilesa LCDA, so we worked in collaboration last year to see those people but I don’t know the conclusion on it, because we learned that some miners took over the place.

“I was in the meeting chaired by Nurudeen Giwa, the former council chairman, and some people were selected to go there.”

“The meeting was held when we still had political office holders in the council but they left this year in February. Their tenure elapsed this year.”

Reacting to the matter, Nathaniel Agunbiade, the commissioner for works, said the only recognised gold mining company in the state is Segilola, which is located in Iperindo, (Atakunmosa East LGA), and any other mining activities carried out in any part of the state is illegal.

“I don’t know the place you’re talking about, but if these claims are true, then they are illegal miners,” he said.

Segilola Gold Project, Iperindo

“To engage in gold mining in the state, you must bring the licence from the federal government to our ministry for recognition. Anybody without a licence is illegal and there is artisanal mining going on in these places.

“The only recognised gold mining company I know of in the state is Segilola.”

In accordance with the Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, Gboyega Oyetola, Osun state governor, on April 22, 2021, inaugurated the Osun Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) to tackle illegal mining in the state.

Oyetola had said: “The committee would discuss and advise the minister of solid minerals on matters affecting encroachment, trespass, security, social unrest, pollution and environmental degradation of any land on which any mineral is being extracted as it relates to all licence holders within the state.”

When TheCable reached out to Omolade Binuyo, chairman of the committee, to alert him on the activities of miners in Farebami community, he did not respond favourably. 

”Come to Osogbo if you want to know anything about mining, I can’t talk to you on the phone,” he said.

In 2020, a report titled Quest for gold: How $500m unpaid tax can transform neglected communitieshighlighted how Nigeria loses $500 million in tax to illegal mining and how this money can be used for the development of the host communities.

The report outlined in detail how the money inadvertently lost to illegal foreign miners can be better used to equip the 774 local governments with ICT and health centres, mega schools, and provide tarred roads and portable water.

In Farebami community, there are no tarred roads, public health centres, schools, ICT and health centres — and this is despite the fact that solid minerals are being exploited in the area.

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