Some spirited individuals and stakeholders in the mining sector are taking advantage of the recently- signed mining act by President Muhammadu Buhari to engage youths in Kogi state as against idleness for crimes and political thuggery. OYIBO SALIHU reports.
Youth in any state or nation represent 60-65 per cent of the population. Apparently youth unemployment is one of the biggest challenges inhibiting economic growth and development of a nation.
Obviously, youth unemployment, most often than not, have given rise to social vices such as armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism, internet fraud, prostitution, political thuggery, destitution, among others numerous to mention.
An individual’s effort
Irked by this ugly development, a philanthropist, Gabriel Elemona Onoja, a native of Olamaboro local government area of Kogi state has taken the bull by the horn as he took the advantages abound in coal mining to engage and empower numerous youths especially in Kogi East Senatorial District and other parts of the state.
The young entrepreneur who has been supporting artisanal miners in the state also took advantage of the recent mining law by the federal government that allow young miners to form cooperative of 10 members to enable them operate in mining sites.
Gabriel Onoja, the current chairman of Coal Buyers Association Kogi East, ceased the opportunity to register over 200 cooperatives which comprises youths and women in the state.
Interestingly, this able youth who hitherto roamed about the streets while some politicians capitalised on their poor economic status to recruit them into thuggery were now awaiting the federal government training, release of grants and soft loans to enable them expand the scope of their mining activities in the sites.
In addition, through the foundation, many youths have been trained on solid minerals exploration and given incentives and basic equipment to aid them in their coal mining activities in Kogi East.
One of the outings
Speaking recently during a sensitisation programme organised for solid mineral stakeholders held at Ejule in Ofu local government area of the state, Elemona Onoja vowed to take many youths from the shackles of abject poverty with a view to complimenting the effort of the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello who had prioritised youth empowerment in all his programmes in the state.
He used the opportunity to commended President Muhammadu Buhari for formalising the activities of artisanal miners in the country even as he described the federal government’s plans to use the ministry to train, empower and grant small scale miners licences to operate on the mining deposit sites in most parts of Kogi as welcome development that would go a long way to reducing youth restiveness and insecurity in the state.
According to him “This arrangement, if actualised, youths restiveness and other forms of social ills in the society, would be addressed and the youths would now channel their time and energy towards productive economic venture that would improve their standard of living.
“With this, the youths would now smile to the bank and haulage operators would as well benefit from the economic gains.
“I am also appealing to the government to assist us with pay loaders, trailers, tractors excavators and other important mining machines to facilitate the mining of coal and its eventual transportation to the end users.
“Training of our members on modern mining techniques would keep them updated. Also, there is a need for approval and quick access to loans and grants in order to aid to strengthen the operations, provision of paramedics for cases of emergency and other hazards on site as well as issuance of insurance cover for artisanal miners,” he said.
He therefore assured on behalf of the artisanal miners that they would do everything possible to ensure that royalty and other entitlements to federal, state and local governments are paid as and when due.
Trainees share their thought
Mrs Joy Abalaka, one of the beneficiaries of the empowerment programme praised God for the life of the philanthropist, describing him as gift from God to this current generation of youth.
“He has touch many lives including mine. He empowered me to go into coal mining and today, I am living comfortably. He has created and given job opportunities for young people who in the past roam about the street for lack of jobs and this has drastically helped in curbing crime in the eastern flank of the state.
“Onoja came to me and others at the time we had lost interest in mining because of unsurmountable challenges we faced then, but he came and supported me and gave me hope that is keeping me moving till date.
“He has done a lot for the less-privileged in Kogi East. We pray to God to give him good health to do more for humanity. We are also happy with the federal government for their plan to help artisanal miners with loans. We are appealing to the government to make the loan accessible to miners to improve our the mining activities.”
Ibrahim Zakari, a coal miner explained that before Onoja came into coal mining business, the Chinese investors bought the product poorly from them. He noted that through the effort of Onoja, the artisanal and small scale miners have been given a standardised and profitable price that has been benefiting them.
He therefore solicited for government assistance in order to expand the coal mining business in Ankpa, Ofu and other parts of the state where the mineral resources are in abundance.
FG rep shares a thought
To boost coal mining in Kogi state, the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development promised to assist artisanal and small scale miners in the state with grants and incentives to enhance mining activities in the state.
Engr Obasi Uwadiegwe, the principal technical officer of the ministry who disclosed this while speaking at a sensitisation programme in Ejule announced that the federal government through the ministry is desirous of investing vigorously to encourage youth to participate actively in mining activities to improve their income generation.
According to him, artisanal and small scale miners constitute 95 per cent of mining activities in sub-sahara Africa, saying government investment in the sector would generate employment for youth and as well take them away from all forms of criminal activities.
He therefore charged artisanal miners in the state to form cooperatives to enable them benefit from the federal government support and training.
He said, “I am urging all youths in Kogi state to form cooperatives and start mining activities at artisanal level so that it can grow into a bigger mining site. You should also adhere to government rules and regulations by registering with the ministry and also cooperate with the host communities to avoid incessant conflicts,” he advised
He used the opportunity to commend Onoja for facilitating and supporting mining activities in the state, while assuring him that government would support him in the promotion of mining in the state.