The federal government Tuesday said gold smuggling in Nigeria were aided by private jet owners and also called for capital punishment for the perpetrators.
Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development Dr. Uche Ogah made this known at an investigative hearing on $9 billion annual loss to illegal gold mining and smuggling organised by the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy.
“Gold smuggling in Nigeria is often done using private jets, the very reason why private jets ownership and operations need to be streamlined in the country,” he said.
The minister said illegal mining in Nigeria started far back in the early 1980s following the indigenisation policy of the military regime in the late 1970s.
The menace, he explained, was prompted by the inability of indigenous workers to obtain mineral titles and required technology for mining used by the British miners before the indigenisation policy.
He further said gold smuggling and illegal mining robbing the country of billions of dollars on yearly basis, thrived due to series of factors like connivance of security agencies with the offenders , host communities’ collaboration, low level of application of technology and negative mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria.
“For these crimes to be fought decisively, potent punitive measure like capital punishment need to be legally provided for,” he said.
Uche, however, added that the menace can be tackled proactively through establishment of mines Police, special court or tribunals to try offenders, adequate funding for the ministry and positive mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria.
“The main crux of the matter is for us to be Nigerian by seeing ourselves as Nigerians in all circumstances. Doing this will make us see mineral resources in our communities as collective wealth of all Nigerians that must not be illegally explored by anybody within or from outside the country,” he stressed.
Speaking in the same vein, a member of the committee, Senator Francis Fadaunsi (PDP Osun East), alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made smuggling so easy in Nigeria.
The Apex bank, he explained, facilitates the menace through its lopsided and exclusive policy on FOREX availability to Nigerians.
“Gold smuggling and illegal mining are carried out by political elites and not just the poor masses at the illegal mining sites.
“Categories of Nigerians at the top from political office holders, politicians, traditional rulers, top security officers etc, are involved in gold smuggling and illegal mining in one way or the other. Poor ones did it on behalf of the big ones,” he said.
In his closing remarks, the committee chairman, Senator Tanko Al- Makura (APC Nasarawa South), said for thorough investigation of the menace and required way out, heads of relevant government agencies would be summoned for more critical interface.
He listed the agencies to include; the CBN, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Police, Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).