From Gyang Bere, Jos
The Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase has declared that the Federal Government loses N1 billion monthly to illegal mining in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State. He blamed the worsening banditry activities that have perished several lives and properties in the area to illegal mining and urged the people to expose bandits who take refuge in the communities to wreck havoc on innocent citizens.
Wase your constituency has been involved in banditry activities leading to the destruction of lives and property, what steps are you taking to stop the situation?
Let me start by appreciating the media for the good work you are doing, the fourth Estate of the realm is required to strengthen our democracy. I implore all journalists to do their work diligently; this will add value to what Nigeria stands for and then spur us to do more in deepening democracy. You are required to report accurately whatever is happening for the betterment of our society. On the insecurity in my constituency, I appreciate the fact that we need to be transparent in all we are doing but you don’t discuss security measures in terms of what you want to do to mitigate the situation in a public domain because if I should roll out what I am doing to solve the problem, it means I am equipping those causing the problem with information to change their strategies. I want to say that we are worried over the destruction of lives and property in my constituency and we are doing our best in tackling the situation and we will continue to do our best. The primary role of any government is to protect lives and property and when we fail to do that, then we have failed in our responsibility. However, we are conscious of our responsibility and we will ensure we live up to the expectations. The problem of insecurity did not just start in my constituency in one day. If you recalled sometimes back, I moved a motion in the floor of the House, calling the attention of the then government regarding the activities of miners but I am more happy that I have been vindicated by the present position of the Federal Government in terms of asking for the closure of anywhere there is illegal mining. Zamfara State is one of the good cases I will cite here; we have seen what has happened and what is happening there in terms of insecurity. I want to say that the root of every bandit and banditry activity that is now in my own constituency has linkage with those that are coming from there. Mining is one of the things that have increased insecurity in our country because wherever you find mining, you find criminality; a lot of drug dealers are found there. I mentioned this when Yakubu Dogara was Speaker of the House of Representatives and he made a personal visit to the place and the next thing was that he took a very robust decision but you know the problem in our climes where we are today. By the grace of God, we are doing our best as a government, we are doing our best as constituted authority. I have moved a lot of motions in the floor of the House and I am using my position as Deputy Speaker to ensure that the right thing is done to protect Nigerians and my constituents.
Most residents of rural communities in your constituency have fled to Wase town because the Military personnel stationed in the areas have been withdrawn, are you aware of this and what are you doing?
They are not just withdrawn from one community, they are withdrawn from most of the villages within Wase including parts of Kanam. These are operational procedures that I cannot explain as a civilian as to why certain things are happening, I believe there must be an intent before the security will act. In some cases, we lack patience, and when we give judgement, our judgement will not be right. Those soldiers that are withdrawn are not taken away from Wase Local Government Area, they are stationed in Bashir; it could be because of an intelligent report. It is for us to pray so that their presence there will yield the desire result. I am not among those that encouraged the withdrawal from those villages but, there is need for assessment as to ascertain the efficiency of the action. Through the withdrawal, I can tell you that we have had series of attacks, there was one in Safuo, another one occurred in Nyalung, therefore, I feel we were being deceived on the lack of intelligence that was coming from those areas. The withdrawal, for me as someone who is working closely with them shows now that the attacks has taken another dimension, so the withdrawal could be another method of dealing with the insecurity.
The villagers had confidence before the withdrawal of the security, what is your encouragement to the people?
I can tell you that government is taking serious measures; this insecurity is not just happening in my own constituency, nobody should celebrate it. If you celebrate this kind of thing, then you must be insane; a normal person should be worried about what is happening. The insecurity is happening in Zamfara, Katsina and virtually every part of the country. Maybe, this is a new challenge, every administration is identified with one challenge and the other. We must work collectively to ensure that the right thing is being done to defeat the menace. We must ensure that the security and safety of our people are secured; anything short of that should not be encouraged. I want to encourage my constituents and all Nigeria to be prayerful and steadfast, and give maximum cooperation because all these criminals are living within the society and in some cases, people know them and they have refused to disclosed their identify. This may be because of the past experience. I have mentioned that in the floor of the House severally; how the security has not cooperated with us in terms of protecting the civilians and their properties. I give two or three examples. Where arrests are being done, at the end of the day, they release them to cause havoc and that scared the civilians not to doll out information as to where some of the criminals are. This could be one of the problems and we should not condone that even at the risk of our own lives. It is important we make that sacrifice by giving important information about the criminal elements who are staying in our society. Let me tell you how they got into my constituency; I have been persistently holding meetings with the traditional rulers, community leaders and the political class and we discovered their action; we had to use road transport workers and say nobody transports anybody to a location that is not certain. When that became very effective, and because Wase has a very large land mass, they decided to enroute through Bauchi and so if you are here in the urban area, you will not know anything that is going on. Therefore, those villagers and those doing pastoral activities, won’t say they have not seen the movement of those people and condoning their activities is what led to where we are today. I encourage the people to cooperate with security agencies so that the correct information is given to the security agencies to fight the insurgency.
Don’t you think mining activities still need to be regulated in Nigeria in view of its attraction to criminal elements who are bandits?
It not as if mining is not regulated; it is regulated but because of the linkages that are allowed in the society, it made it less attractive before government and the advent of oil in Nigeria also contributed in terms of harnessing our resources. It is regulated but as of the time I presented my motion at the floor of the House, the Federal Government lost about N100 billion from mining in my own local community. How many people help me to raise the issue. From your own end, I can show you the write up that were done to condemn my motion. If you are able to get 10 or 29 percent of the total sum, that can be used to mitigate the problem of infrastructure deficit that we have. Another part of the problem was that even if you want to move the right tools to the right location for mining, there is no road and if there is no road, it means the communication will be inefficient and too difficult. I assure you that there is regulation in the mining sector; wherever there is mining, the people are supposed to be giving out something to the community for community service. If that is done, I believe we will have some level of infrastructure in this country. Mining in my own area started during the pre-colonial period; this is since the 1950s; we had some Germans in my community for mining. If you go to Kaduna, you will get the proposal made by the white men as to what they intend to use the mining in my own locality to develop the entirety of Southern Plateau including Taraba State and they started; we grew up as young men and we saw the signs. But unfortunately, whoever has his brother there and you are saying the right thing, they will think you are attacking him and so we all lose out.
Is there any synergy between you and federal lawmakers in Langtang and other parts of Plateau to handle this problem?
As a Deputy Speaker, how will I succeed if I don’t cooperate with my colleagues; even if I don’t have challenges in my community, it is incumbent on me to work with my colleagues so that I will be able to deliver what God has bestowed in me. I can tell you we are working together as legislators from Plateau State and we are working together as legislators in Nigeria; that is why all the motions we have pushed in the floor have succeeded, otherwise, we will have setbacks. As we speak, APC in Plateau has about 10 cases in court, being a leader from the state, what steps have you taken to ensure the APC is not destroyed completely in Plateau?
By the grace of God, that crisis will be resolved; primaries have been done, winners emerged and losers are there but as leaders, we are taking steps to address the issues. We will plead with them to work together as a party. Court cases are things that can be explored possibly but we will not allow it to go to the end because the conclusion may not be too palatable and by the grace of God, maybe very soon, you will find this house very busy working to reconcile all the aggrieved persons to work together.