Renevlyn Development Initiative

How lithium and gold mining fuel insecurity, prostitution in Nasarawa community

Field Report 003

Date of Visit:
20 March, 2024

Uke District, Karu Local Government Area, Nasarawa State

Report by: Tobias Dapam Lengnan


Uke district is the administrative secretariat of Karshi development area in Karu Local Government Area (LGA) of Nasarawa State. Uke has a population of about 4000 persons predominantly of the Gbagyi and Fulani ethnic groups whose occupation is mainly farming, fishing and trading. The women are also known for pottery making.

But unlike surrounding communities in Karu LGA that boast of some social amenities and government presence, Uke lacks everything that makes life dignifying. There are no motorable roads, no hospitals, no electricity and no schools for children to attend.   

Despite the failure of successive administrations to bring succor to residents of the district, the Nasarawa State Government in January 2024 announced that it had secured a licence for exploration of the enormous gold deposit and lithium in Uke.

Governor Abdullahi Sule who disclosed this during the state executive council meeting said the state will benefit immensely from the exploration of the mineral deposit in the area of revenue generation and job opportunity for its teeming youths.

That announcement may have elicited excitement outside the community but not within the district itself as the locals say the locality is now attracting unwanted visitors who are now destroying the environment in their search for gold and lithium.  The extraction of lithium and gold are very energy intensive and lead to air pollution, land degradation and ground water pollution.

RDI field monitors who visited the community following a Save Our Souls (SOS) from some concerned members of the district, learnt that licensed and unlicensed miners have invaded the district in search of gold and lithium.

In the brutal fight for access to the precious minerals, the miners who are said to be heavily armed to guard their spaces, threaten members of the communities who attempt to stop them from ruining farmlands and buildings considered as impediments to their extractive activities. The RDI team that visited were also harassed, warned not to document what was going on, and forced to leave the mining sites.

Beehive of activity in the mining area

The locals also lamented the increasing insecurity in the district due to the influx of people they do not know even as they revealed that aside destroying their farm lands, the miners lure young girls with mobile phones and cash gifts in exchange for sex. The sex trade continues to attract school age girls with some as young as 12 years absconding from their families to live with the miners in the camps they built near the mining sites.

They revealed that the horde of young miners consist of mainly non natives and nationals from other countries in West Africa  who do not know or respect the culture of the people. Most of them are said to be very hostile and react aggressively when they are resisted.

The locals fear that the situation in Uke might degenerate and become like Awe, a neighboring community which is now under siege from miners and is now a no-go area due to mining –induced insecurity.

Testimonies from the Frontlines

Abdullahi Saleh,

Most of us live in fear of the known. We already know what is happening in Awe and environs because of lithium mining. We don’t want bandits and other criminal elements to relocate to our community and displace us

Jane Aboki

It is unfortunate that our young girls have abandoned their parents to go after these miners who use them as sex toys for money. “Every young girl is using what she has to impress her friends with iPhone. This is a serious competition among the girls who go after these men.

Sambo Agi

Our farmlands have been taken over by the miners. This mining activity is also destroying the soil. I am worried that if this continues to expand, we might not have farmlands in the future.

Aisha Bala

The government does not have any strategy on how to utilize the mining activities to help the youths in the communities.
The government should observe what is happening in other states like Zamfara, Niger, and Borno, ravaged by crisis so as to learn from their mistakes.


In the course of the visit to Uke district the RDI team observed that vast areas of farmlands have been excavated and replete with pits dug far into the earth where gold and lithium are extracted with impunity and carted away in trucks.  Some of the pits are believed to be up to 200 meters deep. Waste from ground rocks also litter the environment in many places.

It was noticed that though the mining activities are crude and lacked regulation, the operations of the miners are well coordinated and shielded from the public. This notwithstanding, operations like we observed could not be perpetrated without the backing or active support of highly-placed individuals in government.

The risks that the mostly young miners, some believed to be as young as 10 years old, contend with is also worthy of note. Many were seen going into or burrowing deep into the earth and risk deaths from the collapse of the pits or suffocation.

RDI Recommendations

  1. The Nasarawa and Federal Government halt unregulated mining in Uke which has gone beyond designated mining sites
  2. Federal and State Governments compel the mining companies operating in Uke to comply with regulations in Nigeria’s Minerals and Mining Act 2007 which stipulates that,  No reconnaissance activity shall be carried out and no mineral title shall be granted under this Act over any area that is designated as closed to mining
  3. Federal and Nasarawa state governments carry out a comprehensive environmental audit in the Uke district to ascertain the level of destruction of the environment, pollution of farmlands and groundwater, and other sources of water that the locals consume.
  4. Restoration of the environment and commensurate compensation for local community members who have lost their lands and livelihoods due to land grabs spurred by the unregulated mining activities in the Uke district.
  5. Identification, arrest, and prosecution of perpetrators of illegalities including those involved in unlicensed mining, violence, and other criminal activities in Uke district. Their enablers in government should also be made to face the law.
  6. Media spotlight of the environmental disaster that Uke has become due to the failure of the state and federal government to enforce sanctions within the ambits of the law.

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