From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Federal Government has approached the Rivers State Government for partnership in exploiting numerous mineral resources in the state.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development Dr Uchechukwu Ogah made the call when he visited Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike at the Government House, Port Harcourt, on Monday.
‘FG is soliciting for the support and partnership of the Government of Rivers State in ensuring the orderly and efficient exploitation of huge deposits of silica sand, glass sand and clay which occur in Rivers State for construction purposes and glass manufacture,’ Ogah announced.
‘Sensitising mining operators, oil and gas operators with the use of commercial explosives for their operations as well as mining host communities and other stakeholders. This is with a view of ensuring that mining activities are conducted in a safe, and environmentally friendly manner consistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007.’
He said that commercial explosives used in oil and gas operations are stored and used in a safe and secured manner in line with provisions of the Explosives Act and Regulations.
‘To this end, the Federal Government is implementing policies aimed at diversifying the nation’s economic away from dependence on oil to mining and agriculture, as the foundation blocks for economic growth and sustainability,’ he said.
‘Mr President strongly believes that food security strengthens our sovereignty as a nation while the exploitation and utilisation of our minerals resources serve as the formidable foundation for industrialisation of the country and economic growth.’
He noted that to achieve the goals requires synergy and collaboration between the federal, states, and local governments.
‘Even though regulation and administration of the minerals sector activities statutorily remains the responsibility of the Federal Government, as clearly provided in the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution.
He said the Federal Government’s mining policy has focused on streamlining application processes and significantly increasing private sector investment in the industry.
‘The Federal Government desires to partner with your government in the following key areas: providing the enabling environment (such as provision of access roads to sand dredging sites, maintenance of peace and security in sand dredging communities,’ Ogah stated.
He added that the Federal Government wants ‘administrative support required to boost sand mining investments in the State; ensuring adequate sensitization of the good people of Rivers State on the constitutional role of the Federal Government with respect to administration and regulation of sand mining in their communities.’
He assured the governor that the present level of efficiency of sand dredging activities in Rivers State could be enhanced, if both ‘our ministry and your Government mutually collaborate to support the mining investors in the State by providing the enabling environment for the sand dredging businesses to thrive.’
Addressing the stakeholders in the industry, the minister stressed on the need of synergy and partnership to improve the economy
‘We cannot continue to allow this country to be ripped off. We need to work together. This country is bleeding as a result of excesses illegal dredging. We need to work together as a family to stamp out illegal miners in Rivers State.’
In his response, Governor Wike proposed that states should be allowed to develop and operate their respective minerals and pay royalty to the Federal Government.
He said this has become pertinent because the Federal Government which unilaterally controls the country rich mineral endowment has failed to translate the mineral wealth into overall economic development.
The governor maintained that in order for the country to benefit from its vast mineral endowment, the Federal Government should concentrate on formulation of policies that would facilitate an improvement in the governance of the mining sector to improve social welfare of the citizens.
‘The Federal Government is carrying so much load that they are not supposed to carry. Allow states to develop these minerals and pay royalty to the Federal Government. That is the way it’s supposed to be,’ the governor said.
He urged the minister to push for reforms that would enable states and local governments take charge of mining of solid minerals in their domain and then pay tax to the Federal Government.
‘It is very important for people to know that part of the problem in this country is that everybody is depending on oil, when we are also supposed to look at other minerals. Minerals play a great role in terms of raising revenue for any country. So, our overemphasis on oil has reduced our impact on other minerals.’
He noted that if the country fully harnesses the gold deposit in Zamfara as well as other minerals in other states of the federation, the country would make a lot of revenue from these minerals that can accelerate her development.
Governor Wike lamented that despite the possibility of the Ajaokuta Steel Company project generating huge revenues for the country and creating not less than three thousand jobs, the Federal Government for political reasons, have failed to actualise the country’s aspiration to become a major player in the global steel industry.
The governor declared that the Rivers State Government was prepared to collaborate with the Federal Government to develop the mineral sector of the country.
He advised the Federal Government to shun playing politics with issues of economic development and strive entrench the ideals of good governance in the country.