Fred Itua, Abuja
The Federal Government, through the Minister of Mines and Solid Mineral Development, Olamilekan Adegbite and the Chairman, Senate committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Tanko Almakura, have accused governors of supporting theft of national resources through illegal mining.
Adegbite in an interactive session with the committee, said the challenge of illegal mining was being supported by some state governors through the provision of police escort while they are out on the field to illegally mine solid minerals in their domains.
Without mentioning any name, the minister said: “You will find foreign nationals encouraged by our people without naming them, we have some State Governments that are encouraging these nationals that we are talking about and that is why you see them with security.
“When they send them to go and do this they needed police. What do you expect a mining officer to do when the State Government is backing this illegal mining?”
He said as part of efforts to diversify the economy, the Federal Government has decided to look up to Rusaia to seek expertise in its renewed effort at fixing the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
He said the Russians have assured of completing the project at their own cost, but was still exploring a Joint Venture Cash Calls (JVC) of Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) or Build and Transfer (BT) to revive the steel complex which has not been running at its optimal capacity for over thirty years.
Responding to the issue of state government supporting illegal mining, chairman of the Senate committee, said such governors are illegal miners themselves.
He advocated for a non-punitive approach to resolving the matter which they both agreed is on the exclusive list of the government restricting state direct development of the sector.
Almakura called on all stakeholders to evolve legal and structural measures to incorporate state governments to participate in solid minerals development.
“Why are they giving support to illegal miners? Now the simple response or answer to that is that they are helping illegal miners because they are illegal miners themselves.
“There is no where illegal mining can take place without the knowledge of the community; you cannot illegally mine mineral without the consent and the participation of the community.
“It then means that we must find ways, structurally and legally to encourage state government not to participate in illegal mining.
“That is only by carving a role for them. If you look at the law on mining it is in the exclusive list. There is need for us to come together, the Senate, the House of representatives, the stakeholders and even practitioners in the industry to sit down and unbundle this to give every segment or every level of government some measure of participation without usurping the exclusive legislative rights.
“I was a governor in Nasarawa state for eight years, in spite of all the hot air about Nasarawa being the home of solid minerals, I do not think Nasarawa sate government got up to N100 million from solid minerals.
“You could see if LG and state governments are given a role, it will go a long way of giving them a sense of participation. We need everybody to be carried along. It is not something, that will look punitive but something that will cause collaboration and cooperation.
“So that we can diversify the economy and create wealth for our people and employment,” he said.
He urged State Governments to be innovative and establish Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to be active players in the value addition to the raw materials to create employment and boost internally generated revenue for themselves.
“We should also think about investing in the future. We cannot say because solid mineral is capital intensive, then we leave it to foreign entrepreneurs, why can’t government create funds avenues, factories that could yield value chain rather than the artisan miners selling the raw materials at ridiculously cheap rates,” he said.