Fred Itua, Abuja
The debate over resource control, especially the hydrocarbon deposits in the Niger Delta, yesterday, resonated in the Senate with Deputy Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, faulting the decision of Zamfara government to make profit from gold and mineral deposits found in the state in clear violation of Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007.
Omo-Agege who hails from the South South, while making his contribution during a debate on the general principles of the 2021 budget, said it was wrong to allow Zamfara State convert national revenue yielding asset to state owned property noting that gold deposits by law, remained a national resource and should be treated as such.
Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, recently said his administration had established a gold reserve.
“It is also the first of its kind by any state in the federation. For a start, we have purchased 31 kilogramme of gold, wholly mined and refined by our artisanal miners. We will subsequently continue to buy gold from our local miners so as to gradually improve the reserve. The precious metal would be deposited in a bank,” he said.
But the deputy senate president said people in the Niger Delta considered it injustice that while hydrocarbon deposits in their region was exploited and sold with profits shared by federal and state governments, Zamfara enjoyed monopoly of its gold resource in breach of the law.
“There is also something that is troubling our people and I thought I should bring it in here. It is clear that only two sources is identified in the budget – revenue from oil for the most part and borrowing both local and foreign. But Mr. President we also have other potential sources of revenue that has not been looked at and we keep talking about leakages every time.
“For instance why do we talk about leakages when we can hook directly to solid minerals sector. Not too long ago we saw a governor came to the Central Bank of Nigeria with a gold bar worth N5billion being presented for sale. That is agitating our people because they are beginning to wonder who owns this gold that is being sold to the CBN, they do not sell oil in Delta State or any of the Niger Delta States. So they are wondering why any state will be selling gold bar harvested from the state to the CBN.
“There are two problems there, Mr. President, we in the Niger Delta believe that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire nation and we should actually look into that because it does not belongs to the state government,” he said.
The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, was passed into law on March 16, 2007 to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999 for the purposes of regulating the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria.
The Act states: “All lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities shall from the commencement of the Act be acquired by the Federal Government in accordance with the Land Use Act.”
Omo-Agege, in his argument wondered why the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would not harness resources from the solid minerals sector to shore up revenue sources for the 2021 fiscal year, but would leave a state to mine and sell gold bar to the CBN. He also decried the poor state of roads in the South South.
In their contributions, senators from Zamfara or the North declined to speak on the issues raised by Omo-Agege during their individual contributions. In like wise, senator from the oil producing states kept mute and failed to support the position of Omo-Agege or to oppose it.