• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Chinese groups bribe militants to secure mineral resources in Nigeria

Across Nigeria, mining sector holds opportunities for investors

Chinese mining contractors are funding Nigerian militant groups to secure access to the country’s mineral reserves, raising the prospect that Beijing could indirectly fund terror in Africa’s largest economy, says a recent statement by The Times.

According to the British national newspaper, Chinese companies working in parts of Nigeria where attacks are frequent have been striking security deals with insurgents.

Research shared with The Times from SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based analytical group, has revealed videos on social media and WhatsApp of militant leaders boasting that they are so powerful that Chinese workers wishing to operate in their areas must pay them “rent”. They have taken over swathes of northwest Nigeria, turning the region into the country’s bloodiest conflict zone.

The Times added that the insurgents discuss the payments on social media. Sources on the ground in the states of Zamfara and Katsina have confirmed that, in the words of Ikemesit Effiong, SBM’s head of research, “these guys are perfectly willing to pay off whoever needs to be paid off and have no qualms about it and are allowed to carry out operations”

“In one pocket of Zamfara, researchers found, interaction with militants runs so deep that some serve as runners for Chinese miners who have spread throughout Nigeria, controlling digs for gold. The country has some of the largest gold reserves in the world,” the paper said.

The British newspaper added that they often operate informally in small groups as contractors registered to clearing-house companies. They speak local languages and can live for years in remote areas that Western companies consider off-limits.

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In addition, Chinese engineers and staff on hydroelectric dams have described the “hell on earth” of being kidnapped, amid local perceptions that they carry wads of cash.

“Miners attempt to blend into their host communities but are nonetheless targeted, notably in the case of seven Chinese men who spent more than five months in captivity last year after a militant group in June stormed their mining site at Shiroro in Niger State, leaving 48 people dead,” The Times said.

“Chinese mining contractors, who local communities have accused of abuses and paying pitiful wages, often smuggle minerals out of the country illegally and are sometimes arrested. In 2020, 27 miners, including 17 said to be Chinese, were arrested in Osun state. Last October, a Chinese citizen, Gang Deng, 29, was jailed for five years after being found with 25 tonnes of a mineral thought to be lepidolite, containing lithium, which is used in batteries.”

SBM also found Chinese workers involved in the Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria’s northeast, with a case of a Chinese smuggler being paid to help a jihadist group move metal ore out of the country.

According to a statement by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Africa’s artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector has development potential.

“At their peak in 2017, these mines in Niger employed as many as 600,000 people and created opportunities for local infrastructural development. But these prospects are undermined by criminals who profiteer from the sector at the expense of vulnerable populations,” the statement said.

“Collaboration between politically connected Nigerians and Chinese corporations in illegal gold mining drives rural banditry and violent local conflicts in some parts of Nigeria. This includes the northwest, north-central and southwest regions.”

The institute also said that local populations carry an estimated 80 percent of mining in the northwest region illegally and artisanally. The mining of largely untapped mineral deposits in the area, especially gold which has strategic importance and economic value, is at the root of community violence.

According to ISS, the government’s ban on artisanal gold mining in Zamfara State and across the region, and the deployment of soldiers to enforce the ban since April 2019, have yielded few results. However, illegal mining and its associated conflicts continue regardless“The conflict has increased since 2014, spreading across Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Plateau and Zamfara states. Over 5 000 people have been killed in Zamfara State in the past five years. In February 2020, soldiers killed 13 bandits during clashes in Zamfara and Kebbi states. In April, four soldiers were killed by robbers in Zamfara State, and police arrested two Chinese nationals for illegal mining,” it said.

“Illegal mining leads to violent local conflicts in two ways in the North West. First, those funding the mining fight over control of the minefields. These ‘sponsors’ are protected by some state governments, and act as if they’re above the law, Chris Kwaja, a senior researcher at Modibbo Adama University of Technology in Yola, Nigeria, told the ENACT organised crime project.”

In addition, even when the governors of Katsina, Niger and Zamfara states led negotiations with the sponsors of illegal mining, this was under conditions determined by the sponsors – showing the level of political connectedness and state protection they enjoy.

According to ISS, those who sponsor illegal mining also fund banditry and cattle rustling in mining communities to incite violence among cattle breeders and rearers.