The Nigerian Government and the Osun State Government have been urged to find a lasting solution to the water pollution and hazard illegal gold mining was causing to about two million residents of the state.
The call was made at a stakeholders’ forum organised by the United States Consulate to persuade both the state and the federal government to not only take immediate steps to purify the contaminated Osun River but also compensate residents whose lives and livelihood have been affected by the contamination.
SaharaReporters recently reported that water bodies in the state had been highly contaminated with mercury, lead and cyanide as a result of illegal mining activity currently going on in parts of the state, putting the health of residents at risk.
During a visit to the state to reveal the extent of the damage done not only to the farmland of residents but also to the gross pollution of their water source, the residents blamed the government of the state for failing to take action to stop the illegal miners despite numerous promises.
According to the residents, miners, mostly experts from China, enter their farmlands in search of gold and other mineral resources.
Farmers in Kajola-Ijesha whose farmlands were destroyed by the miners said they have been in debt since the invasion of their farms.
Stakeholders urged the government to check mining activities in the state and ensure miners act in accordance with the law.
Speaking at the stakeholders’ forum, Anthony Adejuwon, Team Lead of Urban Alert, a civil rights organisation, said the state government must protect the identity of the state by ensuring the purification of contaminated river in Osun.
He said, "This discussion is to make the state and federal government to act to protect two million lives of people in the state and also protect the identity of Osun State.
"It is important for the government to protect the people and the water bodies that have been highly contaminated as a result of the activities of the illegal gold miners."
President of Osun State Miners Association, Oluwaseun Ajeigbe, who also frowned at the pollution of water by the illegal gold miners, urged the government to regulate mining activities in the state.
He said, "There are ways we have to do things professionally that will not affect water. So, it is the job of all of us, whether we like it or not, we need to come together. Mining has come to stay."
Mr Femi Adefila, a resident of the state and stakeholder in the mining industry, said the state must clamp down on illegal miners to protect the agricultural sector in the South-West region.
While lamenting that while foreigners were the direct beneficiaries of the illegal mining, he urged the state government to put in place remediation plans.
He said, “The only place we have now where we produce food is the South-West, why must we again allow this land to be impacted negatively? We are about 200 million people, we need to eat.
"Most of the beneficiaries of this illegal mining are not even Nigerians, they are Chinese. These people are on the fringes and the periphery of the mining business.
"The Federal Government in collaboration with the Osun State Government and other stakeholders must design a remediation plan."
The residents also called for identification of the illegal miners while urging the government to give miners necessary conditions to work with to protect the residents of the state.