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Curbing illegal mining activities

Simon Lalong - Curbing illegal mining activities
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The recent move by the Federal Government to curb illegal mining operations in the country could not have come at a better time. It, however, took the loss of over $9bn to the criminals for the government to wake up from its lethargy.

Announcing the decision of the government to curb the impunity, the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the amount was lost over a period of two years, precisely between 2014 and 2015.

Kayode was speaking with State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting held last week in the Conference Room of the Office of the First Lady in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The loss was contained in a recent report by the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), mainly from the illegal export of gold, lead, tin and coal.

Consequently, the FEC approved the sum of N987m for the purchase of 50 Toyota Hilux vehicles at the cost of over N19m each for deployment towards the monitoring and curbing of illegal mining in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and in view of the fact that the previous one vehicle per state was considered grossly inadequate to monitor illegal mining activities nationwide.

The minister further revealed that the bulk of the significant increase of 8.97 per cent in the contribution of agriculture and industry to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the third quarter of 2017 as recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) came from mining and quarrying activities.

In addition, he revealed that the government’s ultimate goal was to deploy technology to monitor illegal mining, noting that the initiative on mines and steel development would involve the collaboration of the federal and state governments through the setting up of Mineral Resources and Environmental Committee as provided for in the Mining Act.

The minister added that the FEC also approved the constitution of Special Mining Surveillance Task Force with the mandate to monitor and curb illegal mining across the country. The task force would comprise security personnel deployed from all security agencies including the Nigeria Police, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Department of State Services (DSS), National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

It is also gratifying to note that the Nigeria Police Force has established Mines Police to support the initiative, headed by a Mines Police Commissioner, while a similar office has also been created in the NSCDC.

Fayemi strongly believes that once illegal mining is put under control, there will be a significant contribution from the sector to the country’s GDP as well as an increase in government’s royalty and job creation for the teeming populace.

Illegal mining operations, like oil bunkering and other allied crimes, have thrived in different parts of the country unchecked for decades. The situation has arisen from the neglect of the solid minerals sector in favour of black gold, thus allowing the criminal elements to have a field day.

The creation of Solid Minerals Development Agencies by a large number of state governments in the late 80s gave a false hope about their commitment to the sector. Had government at all levels given the desired impetus to the initiative through the deployment of resources from oil, Nigeria would have been saved from the negative repercussions that followed the collapse of the oil prices in the international market in recent years.

While commending the Federal Government’s step to stem the tide of illegal mining activities, we hasten to support the call for the removal of the sector from the exclusive list to enable full participation of the state governments and other serious stakeholders with a view to maximising the gains.

Nigeria is adjudged as being home to solid minerals found in almost all parts of the globe. It is, therefore, a sad commentary that the Federal Government has long placed the sector at the disposal of the criminal elements who have been robbing the country of its resources for quite some time. Government should also put in place severe sanctions that would discourage illegal mining in the country.


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