By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja
The Nigerian Army has denied reports that two soldiers and 7 illegal miners lost their lives during a bloody clash at a mining site in the Magama village in Jibia local government area of Katsina state last week.
An online report by Daily Nigerian, which however said it stands by its original report despite the army rebuttal, had published that Abdulganiyu Isyaku, Fahad Shamaki, Muntari Kwalo-kwalo and Ismaila Danbirni were among the dead in the bloody clash that happened last Wednesday evening.
The report said the bloody clash arose after the discovery of huge gold nuggets in one of the open-pit mines dug by the artisanal miners, and the soldiers on illegal duty wished to change an earlier agreement for the miners to pay N500,000 per pit.
“Numbering about 40, the illegal miners, who were also armed, paid the soldiers the sum of N500,000 per pit before they were allowed to start the mining. When the soldiers saw the huge nuggets the miners discovered, they insisted that it be shared equally with them,” an insider who reportedly survived the clash told the medium.
The soldiers were said to have started shooting in the air when the miners backed out of the new proposal from the soldiers. “The scared miners, 27 of whom had guns, also replied the fire, and then exchange of direct gunfire began ensued. The soldiers lost two men, while miners lost seven men in the clash.
“The mining ring leaders were able to successfully run away with the nuggets, valued in conservative estimate at N70million, in their vehicle,” the report said.
However, in a swift reaction yesterday, the director, army public relations, Onyema Nwachukwu, denied the allegation in a statement on Monday in Abuja, describing it as “baseless, unfounded, untrue and a mere figment of the writer’s imagination, aimed at tarnishing the reputation of the Nigerian Army.”
According to him, no Nigerian soldier was killed, or involved in any skirmish with illegal miners in Magama village on Jan. 5 as reported. “Nigerian Army troops deployed in the North West are committed and engrossed in the fight against banditry and other criminalities bedeviling that region. They are not permitted to participate in any form of mining, whether legitimate or illegitimate.
He also assured the general public of the unrelenting commitment of the troops to decisively tackle the banditry menace in the North West.