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Nasarawa: Tension over moves by Chinese company to encroach into settlements

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There is palpable tension in Udege-Mbeki community in Nassarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State following alleged move by a Chinese firm, Kenpang Mining Company to expand mining activities to residential areas.
The development is being resisted by the youths in the community who have vowed to “safeguard and protect their ancestral heritage” at all costs.
Udege-Mbeki and surrounding area is noted for hosting large deposits of columbite, cassiterite, tantalite and tin which had attracted foreign miners to the community across centuries.
Kenpang Mining Company commenced operation in the area in 2011 after the exit of another company Vactis Tin Mines.
Stakeholders meeting earlier slated for the community last Friday, was aborted few hours to the scheduled time as youths who were privy to the agenda and disenchanted with the body sent a petition to Governor Abdullahi Sule over the alleged plan by the Chinese.
The meeting venue was later moved to the headquarters of the local government area and later shifted to Keffi town.
The youths under the aegis of Concerned Youths of Udege-Mbeki in a letter to Governor Sule dated 28th February, 2024, signed by the leader, Ibrahim Hussaini and obtained by our correspondent, said the Chinese company had consistently breached the agreement it reached with the community and cannot be trusted to engage in further expansion outside the demarcated area allocated to it.
They said part of the agreement is the restoration and reclamation of the 50 kilometers of the already mined out area, which the firm has refused to respect and therefore opened the community pollution and other degradation.
They also explained that the firm failed to provide amenities and infrastructure, as well as employment to skilled indigenes of Udege-Mbeki, Odu, Eyenu and Agbazo, to high position even having engaged in exploration activities for many years.
They equally accused the company of failing to construct a dam for its use and that of the community, while also polluting the existing dam which had served as the only water source before the Chinese arrived the scene.
They are therefore calling on the company to urgently reclaim the mined-out area; that the realignment of the paddock round the clock that further excavation should be stop; and that the company should stop divide and rule tactics it has been employing in the interest of peace and mutual harmony between all parties.
The letter was copied to the heads of all security agencies in the state, the Commissioner of Environment, Chairman, Nassarawa local government area, the Overseer of Udege Development Area and amongst others.
Our conversation reports Governor Sule had on many occasions in the past intervened in face-off between the youths of the community and the firm.
The last conflict over the proposed expansion plans led to the setting up of a standing committee by the Commissioner of Environment, Mr. Yakubu Kwanta in September 2023.
The Commissioner told our correspondent on Sunday that the state government will look into the new petition in order to find a middle ground on the matter.
He said the state government has a responsibility of protecting the rights of its citizens, adding that the recent executive order signed by Governor Sule and the existing mining law explicitly spelt out the rights of host communities and that of companies legally operating therein.

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