The prosecution of 17 Chinese nationals arrested for illegal mining in Osun State by the Federal Government has been allegedly frustrated by influential people.
The PUNCH gathered from a source at the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development on Thursday that the Chinese nationals are yet to be handed over to the police despite efforts to prosecute them.
The source said:
“We learnt that, up till the moment, the Chinese illegal miners have not been handed over to the police.
“If they are not handed over to the police, it will not be possible for the Federal Government to prosecute them and they can be released without anybody knowing what happened.
“We don’t want that to happen,”
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, vowed to ensure that the Chinese and their accomplices, including Senegalese, Burkinabes and some Nigerians, Adegbite will be prosecuted and the FG will not bow to pressure.
Adegbite noted that the surge in illegal mining across the country is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic while reiterating that the Federal Government will not tolerate any form of Illegal mining in the country.
The Minister also accused Nigeria Army soldiers of aiding and abetting illegal mining in the country.
“Nigerians in high positions of authority [are behind them]. The Chinese are the main culprits in the illegal mining activities and we are going to meet with the Chinese embassy. We are going to present all the facts to them so that it will not appear as if we are targeting them unfairly,” he said.
“These godfathers were operating with impunity before, but they are now scared because the arrested illegal miners are naming names but they (godfathers) are denying. The law is on our side and we must prosecute these people to serve as a deterrent.”