FG’s move to establish special courts on mining

The disclosure last week by the Minister of State, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah, that federal government will establish regional courts to try and prosecute illegal miners in the country is a welcome development. The move will go a long way to address the problem of illegal and its attendant mayhem visited on innocent Nigerians.

The minister, who made the disclosure penultimate Thursday in Obosi, Anambra state, when he paid a visit to Igwe Chidubem Iweka, the 3rd of Obosi, said: “It will interest you to know that we are in the verge of working on a regional court against illegal mining in the country.

“Once this court is established, if you are caught engaging in illegal mining, there will be no fine, anybody that is caught will be sent to prison. And if you go to prison for two years, your life is already messed up and you can never be reasonable in the society again”.

Ogah noted that the country is blessed with over 25 mineral deposits that could help change its fortune beyond where it is today. He said that it was however, unfortunate that illegal mining activities and corruption was adversely affecting the country’s economy.

He stressed that while the federal government was not stopping anyone from going into mining activities, due process should be followed and mining licences obtained from relevant authorities. The minister added that royalty should also be paid to the federal government to enable it meet its responsibility of providing infrastructure across the federation.

“We are saying that let there be harmony within the enter system, so that whatever that is harvested or exploited from the land will be uses to develop the country in the interest of all. People should not be stealing and at the end of the day, they leave the land in a position that it will no longer be useful to even the community,” the minister said.

He said the federal government had approved a 13 per cent from minerals generated from states, like in the oil and gas sector. The, minister however, appealed to the Igwe and other traditional rulers to help talk to their subjects on the need to stop illegal mining which he said was causing erosion and environmental degradation in some states of the federation.

“We believe that Igwes have the capacity to stop anyone from excavating, exploiting, and exploring where he does not have permit from the federal government to do so. We want to see how we can work together so that our mineral resources are harnessed in one accord and revenues from it deposited in the federation allocation account,” he said.

The minister added that this was critical to ensure that states got their 13 per cent derivation. He stressed that traditional rulers in the country should help the federal government advise youths, women, and men not to be involved in illegal mining. The Igwe of Obosi thanked the minister for the visit and expressed gratitude to the federal government for approving the 13 per cent derivation for states with mineral deposits.

The federal government had early last year said it had concluded arrangements to establish the Nigerian Mining Commission to take charge of the regulatory role of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. This is to ensure predictability in the mining sector and boost local and international investments.

The then Minister of Mines and Steel Development( now Governor of Ekiti state), Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who made the disclosure at the Nigeria Day at the last year’s African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, said the law setting up the commission was already with the National Assembly.

Fayemi spoke as Nigeria took the centre stage at the forum, with the formal presentation of its new Airborne Electromagnetic Survey results amid endorsements for the country’s mining sector reforms by experts, operators and developmental agencies. Fayemi stated that the government was determined to strengthen regulation in the sector as well as ensure the improvement of its geological data.

He said the commission would not only be the final authority on regulatory matters, it would also take charge of mining leases. Fayemi, in an interactive session with investors and the media after the presentation of the survey results, noted that the delivery of the geological data was in line with government’s desire to ensure bankable geological data that would be an incentive to investors.

He stated that the ministry would undertake more extensive electromagnetic airborne geological survey of some promising parts of the country this year, as well as the completion of the National Mineral Database. The minister said, “We want to ensure predictability; that is what we want to offer. We want to be a big mining destination.”

We find it expedient to call on the federal government to move beyond rhetoric by ensuring the implementation of these strategic policies aimed at regulating mining activities in the country and restoring sanity to the sector. This is quite pertinent given the fact that illegal mining constitutes a chunk of the nation’s insecurity, particularly in Zamfara state. There is therefore the dire need for the establishment of the special courts on illegal miners as the commission to regulate mining in the country.

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