SPECIAL REPORT: Inside OAU Where Illegal Miners Plunder Nigeria’s Precious Stones

A walk along an unpaved path to Ede Road, near the Cooperative housing (students housing) before Damico, revealed another side of life where illegal miners selfishly feast and prosper on Nigeria’s commonwealth within the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU).

Except for a closer glance, one could easily conclude that road construction was taking place in the region.

However, when we moved to document operations on the site, our reporter was able to photograph the face of one of the miners, who sat crossed-legged on a bamboo seat by the road.

As the miner sat, immersed in a phone discussion with an unknown individual, we noticed a sandy trail alongside him that led inside the mining site.

Some thick tipper lines were dug deep into the sandy soil, and piles of sand could be seen from the asphalt road directly behind the trees.

Even though we were unable to enter the site on our initial visit for fear of being harassed, we subsequently saw another miner attempting to cut down some tree branches to obscure the trail leading to the site as soon as he sensed he was being monitored.

The path leads to one of the sites.

One of the primary concerns associated with illegal mining is its devastating impact on the environment. Unregulated mining operations often involve the use of harmful chemicals such as mercury and cyanide, which are used to extract minerals like gold and lead. These chemicals can leach into nearby water sources, contaminating rivers and groundwater, and posing serious health risks to both humans and wildlife (students and staff in this case). The indiscriminate use of heavy machinery and explosives further exacerbates environmental degradation, causing deforestation, soil erosion, and habitat destruction.

The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, of 2007 already introduced a practice of mandatory Community Development Agreement between mining sector operators and a certain segment of the society referred to as the “host community”. In this case, OAU is the host community, and, according to the mandate in Section 116 subsection 1 and 2 of the Mining Act, there is meant to be a stakeholders’ engagement.

Photos taken at some of the sites where the illegal mining activities are taking place inside OAU

On a later visit, Channels Television was able to capture one of the miners, digging deep into the ground with a brown-looking iron pan carefully placed at the bank of the plundered site. His mining net was also perfectly fitted deeply into the soil.

The photo captures one of the miners with his pan and mining net

Surprisingly, Channels Television soon learnt that there were other mining sites right inside the campus of the university.

According to investigation, another site is located at Road 7 which plays host to a couple of buildings, including the junior staff quarters of the university. Another invasion we learnt, takes place at the University Teaching and Research farm.

A source close to the matter told our reporter that precious stones were also being mined inside the river along the teaching hospital complex.

“But I cannot ascertain what they are mining at other locations,” one of our sources who begged not to be named told our reporter.

“Road seven is not the only mining site here. There are many others too. An invasion is also happening at the university teaching and research farm. The mining site there is so deep,” the source added.

One of the miners taking a break after long hours of work.


President, of the Miners Association of Nigeria, Dele Ayanleke, told Channels Television, that the presence of illegal miners inside the OAU campus was flagged at the Annual International Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, held from March 17-22nd March in Jos.

“The information about the matter just dropped less than 2 hours ago at the ongoing Annual International Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society taking place in Jos, Plateau State. The Ministry said they just received a petition from OAU authorities and enquiries are still being made. This is the limit of my awareness of the matter so far. Thanks,” he told our correspondent in a reply on social messaging platform, WhatsApp on March 19, 2024.

Channels Television put a call across to a lecturer at the Department of Geology, OAU (name withheld), who told our correspondent that although he was not authorised to speak on the matter, what is currently taking place at Road 7 is the dredging of the school dam.

“You should speak with the PRO, but I can tell you that the school dam is being dredged,” he said.

Another lecturer of the university who begged anonymity due to the matter’s sensitive nature, confirmed the presence of illegal miners in the university.

“Yes, it is true. Illegal miners are currently encroaching on the university, and their activities are negatively impacting our land,” he said.

Although another source who spoke with Channels Television, partly confirmed the presence of illegal miners, he said the school was also dredging its dam.

“The land area covered by our dear university is so vast. It extends from the known campus area to as far as Moro town, where we have the Pre-degree campus on one side. The Ife-Ilesa bypass crosses the land. On the other hand, it extends close to Osu town around Itamerin. Villages on the land are probably more than a hundred. As such, there are many streams/rivers on the land, the main one being the Opa River which has several tributaries.

“Artisanal miners, some of whom have collected mining licences on remote parts of the vast land take advantage of the villagers’ ignorance and greed, to carry out alluvial mining on streams in their areas, without any recourse to the university. Unfortunately, some of these streams are tributaries of the Opa River, where the university dam is situated. And so the waste products of the mining, containing a lot of silt and clay flow to Opa River, ending up in our dam and silting up the dam and channel that leads to it.

“In this connection, the university has to embark on dredging part of the river that leads to the dam, around the junior staff quarters to prevent complete dewatering of the dam, the water of which has been reducing rapidly in the past few years. It is this dredging that people who are familiar with alluvial mining but not river dredging and cannot take time to investigate are calling illegal mining,” he said.

In a separate chat, a student of the school faulted Dr Adesiyan’s account.

“That’s a lie. They’re not dredging. They made it look like dredging. It’s a mining of precious stones from the place. The area is not even a river so how can they say they are dredging a dam there? Whatever dredging he’s talking about is a cover-up. The funniest thing is that the illegal mining is not being done by the university but by Chinese people.

“However, it is seriously embarrassing and unfortunate that the Students’ body and staff unions have not come out with a clear position on the mining which is happening right on the University campus and stop this open looting of the University mineral resources via this intrusion,” he said.

Channels Television sent messages and called the President of the school’s Student Union, Ojo Akinremi. He, however, declined to respond to our messages. He did not also pick up his calls.

The Secretary of the Union, Akinboni Opeyemi, also told our correspondent that he could not comment on the matter as he was not the university’s Public Relations Officer.


Channels Television later learnt that officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) paid a visit to the university on March 21, 2024, around 3:20 pm.

Our correspondent gathered from reliable authorities, that the commission was on ground for a site assessment of the mining areas.

Additional findings revealed that the EFCC officers were first intercepted at the school’s security gate, after which they were led to the sites by the Chairman of, the Security Committee, OAU, Prof. Oluropo Akinfala.

11 companies have been licenced to mine on our land- OAU CSO

We later gathered that the officers were led to the mining sites by the university’s Chairman of, the Security Committee, Prof. Oluropo Akinfala.

Channels Television put a call across to Prof. Akinfala, and he confirmed the presence of the EFCC at the university on Thursday.

“Since you saw them arrive at our school yesterday, why didn’t you join them? Well, I would have loved you to speak with the vice chancellor on this, what I would like to say is that eleven companies have been so far licenced to mine on our land. And yes, the EFCC was here. They came, saw and left. We are waiting for the result of their investigation because they did a spot assessment of the sites but I can’t disclose the details of our discussion with them,” he said.

We Didn’t Give Consent To Miners- OAU PRO

The Public Relations Officer of the university, Abiodun Olanrewaju confirmed the development to Channels Television.

According to him, although the miners were licenced by the Federal Government, the management of the university had written to the Director-General of the Ministry of Mines, seeking a revocation of the licences.

“It has come to the knowledge of the University Administration that some individuals, groups, and or companies have claimed that they have licences to carry on mining activities on the University land at Ile-Ife and that they have the consent of the University, in the form of leases and agreements, in that respect.
“While the university has, since becoming aware of the illegal activities of these miners, written a formal complaint to the appropriate government authorities, it is equally important to inform the general public that the claim of these trespassers is false.
“The university therefore wishes to use this medium to inform the general public, especially our alumni and other stakeholders, that the University did not give any consent to any individual, group, company or association to obtain any license to carry out mining activities on its land.
“Furthermore, the university did not, at any time, sign any agreement with any individual, company or group for mining activities on its land.
“We wish to assure the concerned members of the university, stakeholders and members of the general public that the university is taking all lawful steps to stop the activities of these trespassers, which constitute a devastating environmental hazard to the University estate and are most embarrassing.
“We have the assurance of the federal authorities that the complaint of the university is receiving the necessary attention,” he said in a statement to Channels Television.

Olanrewaju also confirmed the visit of EFCC to the university last Thursday.

“They came uninvited concerning the illegal mining taking place here. They are going to carry out their independent investigation and get back to us,” he added.

OAU Letter to Ministry of Solid Minerals

Spokesperson for the EFCC, Dele Oyewole confirmed ongoing illegal mining in the University’s premises.

“We were they for an on-site assessment of the place, and we were able to confirm that mining activities are ongoing there.

“Some of the miners claimed that they were issued the licences by the federal government, and we are currently investigating their claim.

“Currently, the case is of top priority to us at the EFCC, and we are making sure to do a thorough investigation of activities there. We assure the public that as soon as we are through with our findings, details will be made open,” he said.

Minister of Mines Keeps Mum

Following confirmation of the ongoing unauthorised mining by the school’s management, our correspondent put a call; likewise messages across to the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake. The minister, however, did not pick up his call. He did not also respond to our messages.

This is as the minister last Thursday, unveiled a 2,200-strong Mines Marshal to smoke out illegal miners and all those who flout the nation’s mining laws, in fulfilment of a major plank of his 7-point agenda, to create new security architecture to secure mining sites across the country.

Alake during the inauguration of the security against illegal mining.

Sadly, OAU is not the first to witness the invasion of such illegal miners.


It would be recalled that at about 7.44 pm on January 16 this year, an explosion was reported in the Bodija area of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, killing two persons, and injuring 77 others, with scores of damage to properties recorded.

The state governor, Seyi Makinde confirmed that the explosion was caused by illegal miners who stored explosive devices in one of the buildings.


Illegal mining activity is also a growing socio-economic challenge in Zamfara state especially in Bukkuyum and Anka local government areas. Usually carried out mostly by local artisans, and traders from neighbouring countries, as well as Russia and China, Zamfara’s richly-deposited gold is being largely explored and stolen by illegal miners.


Benue State is one of the states rich in solid mineral deposits. It is claimed that some of the mineral deposits found in the state include gold, coal, lead–zinc, barites, limestone, gypsum, clay, phosphate, glass sand, fluorspar, salt, ironstone, uranium, sulphur, graphite, cassiterite, manganese, mica among others.

Apart from Owupka where miners are claimed to have been licenced by the federal government, activities in most of the communities in the state are undertaken by artisanal and small-scale mines that do not have licenses to carry out extraction practices in the communities.

Other states such as Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba, Borno, Niger, Kwara, Kano, Kebbi, Bauchi, and Kaduna are also reported to currently experience their share of illegal mining.

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