While Zamfara state, Northwest Nigeria, is engulfed in vicious banditry, killing and pillaging, only miners seem to have figured out how to navigate through the turmoil and do their business without hindrance.
HumAngle gathered that as long as the miners meet the agreed terms with the bandits, they are allowed to do their businesses without fear of molestation from armed gangs in the state.
In April 2019, the Nigerian government banned the mining of gold and other precious stones in Zamfara state as part of the measures to return peace to communities affected by violence from various artisanal mining groups.
The ban was largely snubbed by the actors because miners and the bandits were in a pact that was working for them and did not require a government guarantee of security.
The disregard for the ban was particularly in some communities in the Anka Local Government Area, a local district of the state.
HumAngle reports that one of the stipulated terms of the agreement between miners and bandits includes informing bandits about the movements of the military.
Other terms are providing provisions of recharge cards, petrol, food, phones, cigarettes, lighters, and water to guarantee the safety of the miners.
Some locals have alleged that miners assist armed bandits with electricity close to the mining sites, which makes it easier to sack communities.
A source in Sunke, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said bandits regularly cross over from the mining sites to attack communities.
He said, “from the bandit camp to one of these mining sites is a few kilometres. At night, when you stand in this bandit camp you can see the mining site when their electricity is on.
“However, when it’s time to attack, they cross over these places and attack our community simply because we have refused to come to terms with them.
“They are only capitalizing on their closeness and control of the area to milk the miners. Nobody is fighting over those fields.
“They are just using the fact that they control this area and they have arms, which we do not have, to collect money and materials,” the aggrieved villager said.
A villager who works closely with the miners, Aliyu Bindin, said that some foreign nationals were privy to the arrangements with bandits.
Bindin said, “the Togolese work here with our people and when there are impending attacks they run away for some time.
“The Chinese have some police security and when you go there, you see one Hilux van and about two people with guns.
“It is obvious that the security is inadequate. They augment by supplying electricity, water, and other items to the bandits to stay safe,” he said.
HumAngle investigations found that while this arrangement is also on offer to the farmers, they have been unable to service the terms of the offer due to a lack of resources, quite unlike the miners who continually uphold their own end of the bargain.
For instance, Aliyu Haruna, a farmer, reports that as long as the bandits are revered and handed their items of interest—in the manner they wanted—one could enjoy some relative peace.
He said, “anyone could stay here if he can pay them and revere them the way they want. It is not just the gold miners. Even the farmers too can farm if you can pay the bandits.”
“Nonetheless, some miners have been killed by bandits, despite providing the needed materials as safety also largely depends on the discretion of the bandits.”
In just a few months within the year 2020, hundreds of people have been killed in several banditry attacks across Zamfara alongside the displacement of thousands of people.
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