By Theophilus Adedokun
LAGOS - A British national newspaper, The Times, has reported that Chinese nationals in the mining sector are financing terrorist groups in some parts of Nigeria to gain access to the country’s mineral resources.
The national daily revealed this in an investigation it published on Saturday, April 15.
The Times said that the Chinese nationals are fuelling insecurity and terrorism through illegal transactions, lobbying and bribes.
The newspaper reported, “Beijing could be indirectly funding terror in Africa’s largest economy.”
According to the report, some Chinese who work informally as miners in Zamfara are serving as smugglers for some militant groups in the state and other states in the north-western part of Nigeria.
It noted that Chinese firms constantly negotiate with terrorists and bandits.
“Chinese companies working in parts of Nigeria where attacks are frequent have been striking security deals with insurgents.
“Attacks on Chinese citizens, of whom there are said to be between 100,000 and 200,000 in Nigeria, have become regular occurrences in recent years amid the country’s many conflicts.”
Research shared with The Times from SBM Intelligence, a Nigeria-based analytics company, revealed videos on social media, including 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.
“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.
“Often operating informally in small groups as contractors registered to clearing-house companies, they speak local languages and can stay for years at a time living in remote areas that western companies consider off-limits.”
The report stressed that Chinese mining contractors underpay locals working on their fields.
“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.”
It said that the Chinese who smuggle mineral resources out of the country through illegal routes were sometimes apprehended.
“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.
The ICIR had published a two-part investigation on the activities of illegal gold mining in Osun and Ondo states.
The ICIR’s investigations highlighted the implications of illegal mining on the environment and the health of the natives.
The reports revealed that the traditional rulers and native authorities were in connivance with illegal miners.
The ICIR had also reported that Kogi and Osun states banned illegal mining operations in their territories.
The governors of the two states reiterated their commitment to clamping down on all forms of illegal mining in the state within the ambit of the law, while stating the adverse effects of illegal mining on the well-being of residents of the states.
The government of the two states urged legitimate miners whose activities have contributed to environmental degradation and water pollution in the states to retract immediate steps towards remedying the situation.