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Matters arising regarding Ibadan explosion

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Even the morning after, hours apart, we were not too certain of the enormity of the tragedy that befell us in Ibadan with the Armageddon that ripped open the underbelly of so many hidden facts about our national existence.

Each disaster has a way of exposing and making fun of our vulnerability, especially in those critical areas of life that we ought to take seriously as a people. The sight of victims of the explosions being conveyed to hospitals in open vans is a distressing one that reveals how ever unprepared we are for emergencies. What started like a confused scene sending fearful residents scampering for safety even when they barely knew what exactly was pursuing them has turned out to be the detonation of explosives (according to preliminary findings), raising more questions that we may never get accurate and adequate answers to. And just as we are accustomed to in many of our other national and local mysteries, the real findings about what terminated some lives and turned many into handicaps may never be known by ordinary Nigerians.

Explosives in Bodija! What, for goodness sake could any object of this dangerous make be doing in what used to be the neighbourhood of the elite and an area that has now lost its age-long peace and serenity to the commercialisation drive of young businesses of various hues?  My knowledge of Ibadan reminds me of the serenity of Bodija, albeit, until the development that has enveloped the neighbourhood in recent years on the Awolowo and Oshuntokun avenues. The twin major streets stretch into the Secretariat-Bodija Market Road, coming together in front of the Oyo State Housing Corporation building.

My most recent visit to Ibadan showed the tremendous transformation of the Awolowo Avenue that I knew with centres, and nightclubs, that make the avenue come alive at night with many girls swarming the clubs in skimpy dresses and lining the road waiting for ‘customers.’ Adeyi, as I knew it, was the neighbourhood of eminent personalities such as the late Chief Bola Ige, and also a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Iyiola Oladokun.

With Davis Hotel, a fairly old hotel that serves the quiet needs of the upper class tucked inside Adeyi Avenue, and new hospitality ventures that have come up in the neighbourhood, you could never miss the conclusion that Adeyi once had a peaceful existence. Going by the revelation of Governor Seyi Makinde and the confirmation by the National Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday, we are back to our question: What could explosives be doing in that neighbourhood?

“Illegal miners,” as Makinde called the supposed owners of the devices that shattered the peace of Ibadan, by inference, are probably housed in the neighbourhood from where they coordinated their nefarious activities on the mining fields in Oyo, Osun and possibly Ogun states.

In the bewildering awe that we are all entrapped in, conspiracy theories such as ethno-religious complications that we have all lived with in recent times are inevitable. In my conversations with a very elderly friend who resides off Awolowo Avenue and whose property shook to its very foundation on the night of Tuesday, I was not surprised when he expressed his conviction that investigators must not foreclose the possibilities of some terrorists’ intentions and that the explosions could just be a tip of what is to come in entirely coordinated attacks in this part of the country.

I wish that is not true. But our wishes and prayers are one thing. The intention of those committed to evil is another, which is why posers must be raised over the ownership of the cars suspected to have carried the Improvised Explosive Devices. Who owns the property in the compound where the explosion happened? Assuming the “illegal miners,” which Makinde called them, reside in the property, who do they work for? It is an open secret that all the illegal miners in Nigeria have their Nigerian partners who facilitate things and soften the ground for them. Such partners are usually the big men of society from well-known traditional rulers to heavy political gladiators and some ruthless businessmen.

Illegal mining and insecurity in Nigeria are intrinsically linked. A report authored in 2023 by Oluwole Ojewale, Regional Organised Crime Observatory Coordinator, Central Africa, and Freedom Onuoha, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Coordinator Security, Violence and Conflict Research Group, University of Nigeria, concluded that, “In the banditry-affected communities of Nigeria’s North-West and central areas, loose criminal networks engaging in illegal gold mining have ties to foreign actors and facilitate trafficking flows. Most criminal markets for gold in the country are driven by foreign demand but are propped up by local actors.”

Is the story different from Zamfara to Ilesa where the activities of miners have turned lives upside down? Local chiefs and so-called influential figures connive to exploit their own people and pave the way for foreigners to ravage community lands and take away their resources. The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, has directed his ministry to join the investigations. I even think his ministry should take the lead and be assisted by other stakeholders to unravel what indeed transpired.

The minister may be interested in another postulation by the authors cited above where they said, “Most of the mining activities are being done by illegal miners because mining sites have been neglected by regulators and security agents. Chinese and other foreigners too are taking advantage of this prolonged neglect by the nation’s mining regulators and security agents. It’s also the reason bandits are attracted to the sector.”

Sanitising the mining sector is perhaps Alake’s biggest task and there is just no time to waste to achieve this. I had an encounter with some Chinese opportunists (I refuse to call them investors) at a dinner in Abuja recently. My interaction with them again reaffirmed my belief that those we erroneously refer to as ‘investors’ are no more than hyenas who have come to take advantage of our flesh and leave us with bones. But then, a country that sits on fortunes but chooses to trample on it will eventually yield its wealth to vultures.

What happened in Ibadan, should it be the result of explosives owned by illegal miners, is just another sad reminder that (in the words of Ola Rotimi), we have left our pot unwashed and our food now burns.

 

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