Community leaders in Kurebe, Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, have distanced themselves from an online news report that alleged mining companies operating in the area pay bandits money for protection.
In a joint interview granted to newsmen in Minna by Haruna Salihu Kurebe, a community leader, and Jamilu Abubakar, Shiroro Local Government APC Secretary, the duo said they were not aware of any negotiations entered into by the mining companies operating in their area with bandits terrorising the community.
They said the report was fake, malicious, injurious to their community, and an attempt to discredit and blackmail the mining companies that have been providing interventions and relief to grief-stricken indigenes in the area.
"We read the malicious story, and we are astounded by the sheer blackmail contained in it. The mining companies operating in our area have provided sources of income and livelihoods to our youths. Anyone who says the companies aided banditry is lying ", they said in a joint statement.
Haruna Salihu Kurebe said the companies, before operating in their area, provided all the primary documents obtained from relevant authorities that permitted them to mine in the area.
He said the entire community and the traditional institutions were aware of their presence, and there have been mutual benefits, especially in the areas of youth employment, which has helped in engaging them in productive ventures.
The local government APC secretary and youth leader in the area maintained that youths in the area have been helping the companies in the areas of security and maintaining social harmony.
According to him "because they have been helping us in this difficult situation, we ensure that their equipment and operation are safe.
Many of our youths are engaged in mining. We have no problem with anybody", he said.
The Kurebe community leaders said it was fictitious and impossible to believe that the mining companies operating in their area were providing money to bandits groups, "to what cause and to what benefits. There are dozens of security formations at every single inch in our area; these security people would have known and intercepted any form of dealing with bandits", he reasoned.
Delegates from about 54 African countries and 15 observer nations will next week converge on Abuja for the 31st meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Africa, (HONLAF) to discuss new trends and partnerships to curb the global drug scourge.
Top on their agenda will be discussions and collaborations on alternative development to cannabis cultivation, assets forfeiture, cryptocurrency and money laundering by drug cartels, among others.
This was disclosed on Tuesday at a joint press briefing in Abuja by the Secretary to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Shadrach Haruna, and the Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Oliver Stolpe.
In a statement made available to newsmen by the Director Media and Advocacy NDLEA Headquarters, Femi Babafemi, said Mr. Haruna who represented the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd), at the briefing said the 31st meeting of HONLAF, a subsidiary body of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND) was to enable heads of drug law enforcement agencies in Africa to discuss and develop strategies to combat drug trafficking and abuse in the region.
According to the statement, the HONLAF meeting was an annual event, while the last one was held in Nairobi, Kenya, where Nigeria was unanimously elected as the host of the 31st edition, which will take place from Tuesday, September 26 to Friday, September 29, 2023 in Abuja.
The statement further added while President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was expected to deliver the keynote address and also declare the conference open as the special guest of honour, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and some invited ministers as well as heads of relevant parastatals and agencies will attend the opening ceremony.
The director said the conference will also provide opportunities for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the main agenda.
“Among other positive outlooks, Nigeria hosting the 31st HONLAF is an indication of the trust in the leadership quality of NDLEA among its peers on the continent. At the last HONLAF meeting in Nairobi, Nigeria seized the momentum to broker bilateral cooperation with a number of countries with the intention of forming a strong regional defence against transnational illicit drug organisations trying to establish bases in our countries. Such bilateral relationships have been crucial to NDLEA’s interdiction exercises in the past year”, it stated.
Mr Babafemi added that the country representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Dr. Oliver Stolpe, in his remarks at the briefing, said the HONLAF meeting will also focus on regional and national cooperation to reduce illicit production and cultivation of illicit drugs.
He said there will also be discussion on alternative development, an approach promoted by many countries; financial investigation in drug trafficking cases and the role of cryptocurrency in drug trafficking cases, and money laundering.
He added that the opening ceremony of the HONLAF meeting, will equally afford UNODC and the National Institute of Security Studies to present a report on organized crime trends that constitute threat to Nigeria.