Traditional leaders of Akpet nation in the Biase LGA of Cross River State have raised alarm over the continual influx of strange and armed persons in different groups.
They said the militias have massively invaded and commandeered hectares of their lands without any recourse to the local government, state authorities or themselves.
The clan head of the Akpet nation, HRH Atte Obhort Sunday Evong disclosed this in his palace in Akpet, the capital of Biase LGA when he inaugurated a 21-man committee against illegal mining and the influx of unidentified people in his palace weekend. The committee is led by Mr Otei Evong Ebit with Bassey Otei Egbai as secretary.
Read Also : Court sentences Pastor to three years jail term for possession of human parts
The chieftain was worried that, apart from indulging wantonly in illegal mining which the state government has banned, the strange persons, whom he said are in their numbers, come with thugs and usually resorted to crimes such as the kidnapping of community persons that dared to challenge them, intimidation and manhandling of his subjects.
“In the last few months, there has been a massive influx of criminally-minded, strange persons who move about in our forests with sophisticated arms.
He claimed that an illegal mining firm “has commandeered hundreds of hectares of our community lands, and when we ask questions and challenge them, they intimidated our people.”
Said he: “They have been bribing some locals who guide them. They pay fabulously to our children for measures of gemstones so that they are no longer interested in going to school.
“We have revoked the earlier agreement and instituted a committee to investigate and fish out illegal miners and unidentified persons that have flooded our forests and exploited resources without our authority.
“We also want the committee to fish out those that have formed themselves into unauthorized mining unions or associations under which they extort money from our people for this giant mining firm which prospects for our God-given natural resources with impunity.”
The monarch further disclosed that there have been cases of mine collapse and that a few days ago, another collapse killed one person.
“Mine site collapse is a regular occurrence in parts of Biase LGA. Recently, one collapsed which reportedly claimed a life. Activities of this particular firm and other illegal miners have left many abandoned sites in very precarious states thereby endangering the lives of my people,” he lamented.
He expressed sadness that the illegal miners do not even respect the ban that the state government placed on the activity.
The ban on 16th November 2022 was signed by Alfred Mboto, Permanent Secretary, Security Services, in the governor’s office.
The State Government has frowned at all illegal mining activities in the state, especially in Biase and Akamkpa local government areas, which they said constituted a threat to the safety and security of those areas.
It said security agencies have been directed to seal all illegal mining sites, arrest and prosecute all illegal mining companies and persons involved in these illegal activities.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Committee Against Illegal Mining, chairman of the Gemstones Tracing Committee in the community, Elder Emmanuel Ehom said the mining firm came to them in 2017 formally but has since abandoned the agreement and illegally acquired more than half of their community using the force of arms.
Also speaking, the chairman of the Forest Management Committee, Abraham Urom Obo lamented that despite making fortunes from their lands, they have never ploughed back to community infrastructure to impact pipe-borne water, electricity, roads etc.
“No royalty is paid. No support for public infrastructure. We don’t even know what precious stones they are exploiting. They bribe a few persons, use arms to intimidate and silence us. They have exploited our lands illegally for five years or more. And there is massive devastation of our environment,” he said.