By Shina Abubakar
OSOGBO—FOR Itagunmodi, a village in Ijesaland, Osun State, it is a settlement that lacks both basic amenities and peace that is associated with a village settlement.
It is located after Ibodi Village, off Ilesha/Ile Ife Expressway.
Itagunmodi earned its place on the Nigerian map having been blessed with large deposits of gold.
But, what ordinarily ought to have been a source of joy for the teeming populace of the community and the state as a whole, is now its source of sorrow.
Itagunmodi’s gold deposit has become a major impediment to peace in the community and by extension, some other villages in the area, as the influx of youths from the northern part of the country is scaring away residents, whose major occupation is farming.
It was gathered that mining activities has been going on in the village since the 1920s but the village has never been under panic until recently when mining activities was banned in Zamfara State.
Villagers at risk
A villager, Timothy Amandi, Tiv from Benue State, who has lived in Itagunmodi since 1959, said that large presence of the miners, has put many of the villagers at risk.
Amandi said: “All sources of water for the villagers had been contaminated because of the mining activities. We only drink from a stream called River Ayo, and we are even afraid they may extend their activities to the river because they are gradually moving towards it.
“They came with their wives and whatever they need, their wives supply them. They don’t buy from us in the village. Even accommodation, most of the houses they occupy are given out free. Many labourers also built make shift lodges where they live.”
Also narrating his ordeal, an indigene of the town, Mr. Moses Kolade, said he narrowly escaped death, after he was attacked by the northern youths who invaded his farmland in search of gold.
“As I got to my farm sometime last year, I was surprised to find some labourers already digging holes in search of gold. I tried to stop them, but because of language barrier, they did not understand me. I stopped them by shouting at the top of my voice.
“Immediately they heard that, they surrounded me and started hitting me with clubs. I was also matcheted before I managed to escape from the scene and headed to the police station. Two policemen, who were not armed, followed me down and before we got to my farm, they had left. They, however, did not return to my farm after that incident. They could have killed me if I had not escaped from them.”
Similarly, another resident, Mr. Tunde Ademola, disclosed that the fear of the labourers, mainly northern youths, is the beginning of wisdom for the rest of the villagers and adjoining villages.
He said though many families, after collecting money, released their farmlands to the miners.
He, however, noted that on many occasions, miners go far beyond areas paid for and encroach into other areas not released to them.
Raji said: “If they illegally enter your farmland, you may not be able to confront them because they are large in number and they can also attack if the need arises.”
Illegal mining in Zamfara
Itagunmodi became a flashpoint immediately mining activities was banned in Zamfara State and miners from the area relocated to the sleepy town.
The attention of the state government was drawn to the situation, especially the influx of miners into the community, thereby creating panic among the residents, who pleaded with government to suspend such mining activities in the community.
Meanwhile, the Owa-Obokun of Ijesaland, Oba Adekunle Aromalaran had at a public summit accused the Alagunmodi of Itagunmodi, Oba Michael Famadewa-Kosile of renting out his palace to the miners and also being a benefactor from their activities.
Collection of levies
“Rather than stopping the mining, the state government introduced collection of levies. The solution to the security challenge is total ban on mining,” the royal father said.
He even claimed to have been kidnapped and beaten mercilessly by his abductors after attempt to kill him failed.
Vanguard gathered that it may be difficult to curtail the activities of miners in the village because a cartel benefits from the proceeds.
Suspension of mining activities
However, a communiqué issued at the end of a session of meeting of Ijesa North and South Traditional council with Senator Francis Fadahunsi and security agencies on June 26 this year requested and suggested that “all mining activities be suspended by the state government, the State Government should no longer issue Certificates of Occupancy to the lands being sold without the consent of the traditional heads over such communities for avoidance of incessant and fraudulent selling of family lands. All landed properties sold to non-indigenes be retrieved for avoidance of breach of communal peace.”
It also requested for the extension of Joint Task Force to Ijesa communities in collaboration with the Local security, logistic provision for the Police and other security agencies such as patrol vehicle, maintenance, fueling and accessories.