By DAPO FALADE
A socio-political group, the One Nigeria Movement (ONM), has described as untrue the insinuation that Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State is engaged in illegal gold mining in the state.
This was as the group commended the governor over what it described as his noble initiative of engaging in direct buying of gold as a means to blocking bandits’ major source of fund.
The group, in a statement by its Convener General, Ahmed Sodiq-Mugoro and Secretary, Babatunde Aliyu, also accused beneficiaries of illegal gold mining in the state of trying to mislead Nigerians on the intention of the governor.
The group said it was not true that the Zamfara State government was mining gold in the state, noting that those behind the attacks on the governor were only doing so because they were being made to lose the source of their illicit wealth.
ONM said the question Nigerians should ask those behind the attack on the governor are: “Were people not mining and selling gold in Zamfara State before now? Why all these attacks on the governor just because he is trying to do what is right by exposing what has been happening in the state?”
It said what the Zamfara State government was simply doing is to use its own fund to buy gold so as to prevent the miners from selling to armed bandits, who in turn use the gold to exchange for arms and ammunition.
“The reality Governor Matawalle has brought to the attention of Nigerians is that despite the ban on mining, people did not stop from doing illegal mining and it was the major source of fund for bandits.
“From the day the governor exposed this by taking the gold to President Muhammadu Buhari and letting Nigerians see what the state has, why has banditry come down drastically in the North-West?”
“Zamfara State government, under Governor Bello Matawalle, is not cornering the resources belonging to the entire federation of Nigeria, far from it. Rather, the state government is investing its own money to bring sanity to the mining sector, provide jobs and most importantly, eradicate banditry.
“Before now, what was happening was the bandits forcing the miners to sell gold to them at like N5,000 per gram, while the bandits take the gold to the end users and sell at as much as N20,000 per gram. In most cases, they use the gold in exchange for arms and ammunition.
“It is like using one stone to kill more than two birds and, since this initiative started, Nigerians can notice a drastic reduction in activities of the bandits in the North-West now and it is hoped that they will fizzle out, the moment they no longer have means of getting arms.
“For this, it is our opinion that Governor Matawalle deserves to be commended. But we understand the plight of those orchestrating the attacks against the governor. They are those who are showing anger because the source of their illicit wealth has been exposed and we are sure the governor won’t be distracted,” the statement added.