IBADAN EXPLOSION: Blood-Stained Hands of Foreign Miners – By DAPO FALADE

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It was about 7:40pm on Tuesday, shortly after Maghrib, the daily prayer offered by Islamic faithful when the sun sets, lasting until the red light has left the sky in the West. Many people were already retiring to their various home after a hard day work. Suddenly a deafening bang came from an explosion, shattering the peaceful ambience of Adeyi Avenue, Old Bodija, Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.

Its reverberating effects were felt near and far; it brought in its wake wailings and gnashing of teeth over loss of lives and destruction of about 25 buildings and other valuables. Rescue operators disclosed that the building in which the explosives were kept and two other houses close to it were completely submerged following the impacts of the explosion.

Also affected by the explosion was the house of a former governor of the old Oyo State and a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the late Chief Bola Ige, parts of the nearby Governor’s Office, Agodi, as well as those of other prominent people residing in the area, including that of a former deputy governor of the state, Chief Iyiola Oladokun, who said simply said “I thought I was dead” while explaining that he was in his house watching football when the incident occured.

The impacts of the explosion were felt in other places that were quite a distance to the scene of the incident. Several residents also felt the impact of the loud bang in places like Agbowo, Ologuneru, Apete, New Garage, Bashorun, Akobo, Sango, Eleyele, Apata and up to as far as Omi Adio, all within the Ibadan metropolis.

The initial speculations of what could have been the cause included bombing spearheaded by members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. However, it was later established that the explosion came from some dynamites and other explosives stockpiled in a building at Aderinola Street, off Dejo Oyelese Street, off Adeyi Avenue. It was said that a foreign miner, a Malian, who is the alleged owner of the house, has been keeping the explosives meant for mining in the residential building for quite some time.

While speculations are still rife about the actual number of deaths recorded, the state governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, last Wednesday, put the official figure of the dead at three. This is as another person, Tunde Solomon, the Operations Manager of BON Hotel, located within the vicinity of the sad occurrence, reportedly developed heart attack the following day after the explosion and eventually gave up the ghost, few days later.

Governor Makinde, swift in his response to the unfortunate, has been up and doing. He was at the scene of the deadly and destructive explosion by the midnight of the day of occurrence. He deployed first responders and all relevant agencies within the state to carry out comprehensive search and rescue operations.

Earth moving equipment, ambulances, emergency lights, and security were deployed to the scene of the incident. The wounded and injured were moved to public and private hospitals within Ibadan. Medical personnel were on standby at these hospitals (both private and the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan) to provide needed assistance to the injured, all to be paid for by the state government. The government also provided temporary accommodation for those whose houses were affected. This was as it promised to support them to rebuild their lives.

Beyond the efforts and interventions by the state government so far, some salient issue remain at the front burner of the sad occurrence namely who could be held responsible as the owner(s) of the dynamites that exploded at Dejo Oyelese Street that black Tuesday night? What could have informed the stockpiling of such deadly explosives in a residential area? What is the legality or otherwise of such a stockpiling?

A day after the incident, Governor Makinde said preliminary investigations by security agencies revealed that the explosion was caused by explosive devices stored by illegal miners.

“Preliminary investigations by the security agencies revealed that illegal miners occupying one of the houses in Bodija had stored explosive devices there which caused the blast. The investigations are ongoing. All those found culpable for this will be brought to book,” he stated on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference after visiting the scene of the incident, the governor and his emergency team, including his security team, headed by Fatai Owoseni, a retired Commissioner of Police, disclosed that the company that owned the explosives has been identified.

Giving an update on the investigation so far, the Special Adviser (Security) to the Governor, Owoseni, at the press conference, corrected what he described as some falsehood, misgivings and misinformation on the incident.

“We want to use this opportunity to correct misgivings. People have come out to say that Boko Haram elements have been allowed to invade Oyo State, especially Ibadan. This is incorrect.

“Some people have also said a helicopter flew over the place and dropped the bomb. That is, in its entirety, incorrect too.

“People have said construction sites around that place had used dynamite, and in the course of that, the incident happened. Let me say it is also not correct,” he said.

Owoseni further said preliminary evidence indicated that, for some time, people must have been storing explosives in that area. He added that it must have been something that had accumulated for some time.

Beyond the speculations, one fact has been established by the state government namely, the explosives were owned by a miner who is a foreigner and who has been carrying out mining operations in some parts of the state for some time. Governor Makinde said the person was operating illegally. His submission was based on the fact that the explosives were illegally warehoused in a residential area. But the question remains, on whose authority is the foreigner miner operating in the state?

All fingers pointed to a Malian immigrant, Sawane Youssouf, who is engaged in mining operations in the Oke-Ogun axis of the state. Youssouf was said to have been stockpiling explosives in a house (unknown if he owns it or if he rented it) for years, for the purpose of his extensive mining business.

A lot of people are bothered by how Sawane was allegedly able to stockpile explosives in a residential estate with few eyebrows raised. To many, how he was able to do this is a failure of intelligence, both at the government and community levels. This is more so because the scene of the incident is just a stone throw from the Government Secretariat. The negligence (deliberate or otherwise) of the Malian, coupled with the apparent lackadaisical approach of the government to security, invariably led to avoidable deaths, injuries and damage of property, as recorded last Tuesday.

According to Muyideen Olagunju, a legal practitioner, findings revealed that Sawane Youssouf has a company registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The company, SDYB International Company Nigeria Limited (RC 511184), was incorporated on 17 May, 2004. The four directors of the company included three Malians-Sawane Youssouf, Darame Ibrahima, Yattara Ibrahim- and a Nigerian, Bakare Hakeem Oladimeji.

Olagunju also claimed that Sawane has a lot of Malian boys working under him in the Bodija area. Reportedly, each one of them might have explosives in the various rented accommodation they stay in. Where are these boys living and how can these dangerous explosives be retrieved from them?

According to another information, Sawane is reportedly using the police, DSS and other security operatives to move his explosives and other logistics. Who and who are involved in this apparent complicity?

The alleged prime suspect in the Ibadan explosion, Sawane Youssouf, has come out to absolve himself of any complicity in the unfortunate incident. He reportedly addressed some journalists in Ibadan on Saturday. The Malian immigrant claimed to have been in mining operations for about 30 years, dealing legally in gemstones. He also said he neither has a house or a rented apartment in Bodija.

Sawane, who denied having any link with the explosion, was reported to have said that he is operating legally in Oyo State and Nigeria as a whole, having obtained a valid operational license from the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals and Development.

“Truly, I am a Malian, a gemstone and mineral dealer, operating in the Oyo state and Nigeria as whole. I am the chairman of all Malians residing in Oyo State, Nigeria chapter of the ECOWAS members, I was elected president in the Year 2016 and I have been dealing with precious stones in Nigeria for over 30 years.

“Though, it is true that I jointly operated the registered firm called SDYB International Company Nigeria Limited with RC 511184 with Darame Ibrahima, Yattara Ibrahim and Bakare Hakeem Oladimeji, I can categorically say that the firm has ceased to operate since 2014 as a result of unresolved issues among the subscribers and directors.

“As a matter of fact, the winding up of the company was initiated several years back. I can also emphatically say that I have not had any business dealing with SDYB or her directors in the last 12 years.

“Furthermore, I am telling the general public that I, Alhaji Sawane Youssouf, never at any time rented an apartment either for myself or workers or bought a house for myself or workers at Dejo Oyelese Street in Bodija, Ibadan,” Sawane Youssouf was quoted to have said.

Given the contradictions and denials occasioned by the Ibadan explosion, questions needed to be asked about what happened at Adeyi Avenue, Bodija, last week Tuesday. Governor Makinde often says, “if you see something, say something”. The time has come to ask questions from the residents and about the Landlords Association in Adeyi Avenue; questions must be about intelligence gathering by security outfits; questions should be asked about how a Malian or a foreigner could possess large caches of explosives and store them in a residential area.

A seasoned broadcast administrator and a former Ambassador of Nigeria to Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, simply summed up the activities of foreign miners across the country thus: “Illegal mining….illegal miners. In Oyo State. In Osun State. By persons from Burkina Faso, Mali, Gambia, Senegal… funded by Chinese. Destroying our agricultural land. Not employing our people. Not yielding revenue to our governments. Creating security risks. Go to Ibodi, Osun State and see a new settlement created by these immigrants. Go to Moniya, Oyo State and see a Gambian/Senegalese community….Actions are needed. Not photo session visits by those who inaction created these problems.

Makinde was asked a question during the press conference, last Wednesday. He was asked, given the fact that mining is an exclusive preserve of the Federal Goverment, what can he do, as the Chief Security Officer of the state, to curb the activities of miners and prevent a re-occurence of the ugly incident? Apparently helpless in the face of a defective constitutional arrangement, he replied that it would take a continuous engagement with all stakeholders, from the local government level, through the state level and up to the federal level.

Well-known for always speaking the truth to the appropriate quarters, Dr Farounbi again declared: “Time to begin a restructure of Nigeria. Mining is under FGN. FGN grants licenses. FGN grants visas. FGN grants expatriate quotas. State governments are completely unaware of all these processes. But the consequences of these federal actions are blamed on state governments. Restructuring will correct some of these anomalies.Why is Humanitarian Affairs the responsibility of FGN and not States/LGAs?”

Both Governor ‘Seyi Makinde and President Bola Tinubu vowed to get to the root of the Ibadan explosion. Can the Federal Government pick up the gauntlet and do the needful? Can the government at the centre change the narrative, act timeously and differently from what other successive administrations have failed to do?

Restructuring seems to be the only way to go to prevent a repeat of the Ibadan explosion in the blood-stained hands of foreign miners on our soil.


Dapo Falade is the publisher of NewsCoven.ng, an independent on-line news medium 

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