Wednesday, November 9, 2016

WHAT GOOD CAN COME FROM ZAMFARA STATE?

Unknown attackers on motorcycles struck late on Monday at a goldmine outside Bindin village in northern Zamfara state, Nigeria killing thirty-six people. I have read some other media reports which put the number of dead at forty, while many others were injured. Presently, the security agents haven't been able to identify the particular group responsible for this attack, meaning that the perpetrators like other times will roam free. In times past, it had been cattle rustlers who raid cattle herding villages in Zamfara to dispossess them of their cattle, but this time around it was different, making keen watchers of events there wonder if this group aren't cattle rustlers, or they were but because the gold miners were to be reached before the village, the cattle rustlers decided to make do with gold instead, which is easier to move, while leaving death and destruction in their wake. Among the dead were miners, gold merchants and others around the area at the time of the attack, with the police as usual releasing their vain age-old  statement of leaving no some unturned till the perpetrators are brought to book. Interestingly, just some weeks ago, it was in Zamfara, that the Nigerian military launched an operation to fight cattle rustlers, only for this to happen and they were nowhere to be found, as is norm with operations in Nigeria that have no Intel backing and support.


Zamfara state is hardly in the news for any good in Nigeria, so far as I can recall. If it isn't in the news as the first northern state to politicize Shari'a law, then it's about the amputation of a man for stealing, under an Islamic law superintended by the then child-bride loving governor, who's currently keeping dates with anti-corruption agencies in the courts for misappropriation of public funds while in office, for which not even a strand of his goatie has been singed for. If Zamfara isn't in the news for lynching of students and those who attempted to rescue them for blasphemy against the Prophet in Islam, then it will be in the news for "lead poisoning", as a result of illegal gold extraction with dangerous by-products like lead released to the surroundings, for which some remediation was undertaken some time ago, not by the local, state or federal  government, but foreign aid agencies, like Medecins San Frontiers, MSF concerned for Nigerians more than those that should, besides been saddled with the responsibility to bother about them, so much so that an American friend that was part of a group raising awareness about the issue in the United States confided in me, of her frustration with Nigerian officials looking to have their palms greased before they could be allowed to even come in to review the situation, before planning remediation.

A BOY MINER SHOWS OFF A PIECE OF MERCURY-GOLD AMALGAM AT A PROCESSING SITE, ZAMFARA STATE.


So, you won't blame me when my mindset is set towards another tragedy each time Zamfara is mentioned in the news. Just no good, "meTELLyu" no good. And it is very sad because there indeed should be good news about Zamfara and I will just focus only on one area for instance. Since the President Muhammadu Buhari-led  government came to power last year, all that talk about diversifying the economy has gone the way of other "politics/campaign idealism" that are never brought to realism or life by politicians. It even seems that the president's understanding of diversification is finding crude oil in the north, in the face of dwindling proceeds from sale of crude owing to falling crude oil prices and persistent bombardment of oil exploration facilities, platforms and pipelines by aggrieved Niger Delta militants, despite government's extension of the olive branch to active militant groups via elders from the region in a bid to have them persuade the former to rethink their involvement in economic sabotage.


This search for oil in the North has seen the Nigerian government pump humongous amounts in scarce resources, into the venture that have so far yielded little to nothing, abandoning the booming mining industry in the north, from which Nigeria gets virtually nothing, in the hands of the elite, lords, landowners, even paramount traditional rulers of such areas where mining is being carried out. It's a known secret that so much is made by these men so much so that they've become so strong, enough to scare any minister of mining from peeping into the activities of illegal miners and those who benefit from their activities. That was why, when Nigerians were celebrating the discovery of nickel in commercial quantities in Kaduna, I looked at such Nigerians as poor followers of history, for if not, they'd have known that  government isn't looking to mining as a way of diversifying the economy, as the overlords in the north aren't willing to share mining wealth with Nigeria, even as they look to claim the crude in the south-south as theirs, while never rejecting Value Added Tax, VAT from alcohol, which is not only considered Haram in their domains, but have state governments that set up paramilitary organizations like the Hisbah in Kano for instance, who as part of their terms of reference, have destruction of alcoholic beverages, anywhere they are found in the state, amongst other human right infringing activities that serve the religious inclinations of the northern Nigerian states, while at the same time, contributing virtually nothing to the nations' GDP.

ILLEGAL MINERS IN BAGEGA, ZAMFARA STATE, NIGERIA DIGGING FOR GOLD.


It is my hope that the government will look to Zamfara as a place to bequeath a model for the diversification of Nigeria's economy, using mining as template that will be replicated in other sectors, including agriculture, because the truth is that only a small, a very small number of Nigerians work in the oil sector. Others find occupation elsewhere, in many sectors official and  unofficial, that remain largely untaxed and undeveloped because the lazy governments at the centre and states rely heavily on that single product under the land of Niger Deltans and the South's offshore. Believe it or not, the Nigerian economy is already diversified, it is the revenue generation from the economy that is yet to be diversified, and sometimes when I look at what's happening now with crude I rejoice because it is a blessing in disguise, unfortunately if the  government fails to recognize it, we will continue to have pockets of attacks like the one in Zamfara days back, when we could have Nigerian or foreign companies legally mining gold, under state protection, with Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR that inhabitants of the region can benefit from at the behest of mining companies, besides revenue that will accrue to the state officially, rather than bribes to some big man or Emir somewhere. Unless we begin to think like this, then the search for the so called diversification of Nigeria's economy will remain but a fleeting illusion (a la Bob Marley), amounting to that proverbial (in Professor Chris Nwokobia's popular refrain) "search for Godot".


'kovich


PICTURE CREDIT:
- http://www.sweetcrudereports.com
- http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org 

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