The Federation of Nigerian Mining Host Communities, and Civil Society Coalition on Nigeria’s Mining Sector applaud the recent arrests of 19 foreign and 21 Nigerian illegal miners in Osun and Zamfara states, by the combined efforts of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp; and call for their immediate prosecution.
The groups however noted with dismay, the preferential treatment of the foreign culprits, and news reports of undue pressure on the Hon. Minister of Mines and Steel Development Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite by “godfathers” to release the Chinese culprits, and dismiss the case.
“Impunity has engendered corruption in Nigeria, and as found in other sectors of the economy, frustrated attempts at developing the mining sector in Nigeria. This must stop.
“While it is true that until recently, hydrocarbons have been the core source of revenue from Nigeria’s extractive sector, the solid mineral sector, which now holds an even stronger potential to substantially contribute to the development of the nation’s economy, continues to suffer monumental revenue leakages due to decades of failure to strengthen institutional oversight of the sector, leading to the lack of transparency and accountability. For instance, Nigeria hemorrhages about $1.54 billion annually from illegal gold exploitation alongside other revenues and royalties that could have been remitted from the unaccounted mining and smuggling of other minerals and metals.
“We therefore hold the Federal Government to their pledge to ensure the prosecution of all suspects of illegal mining in the country, and call for a full and immediate investigation of each case, and where found culpable, the arrest and prosecution of their ‘godfathers’ and enablers”, the groups said.
The group warned that “government’s efforts must not end with just knee-jerked arrests and prosecution of foreign illegal miners, it must include concerted efforts to ensure that the avenues through which solid minerals are ferried out of Nigeria without due process are blocked. In addition to ensuring an end to the thriving illicit trade within, and smuggling of solid minerals out of Nigeria, government policies should promote the beneficiation of such minerals in order to enhance their value, and promote fiscal maximization of the sector.
“More particularly, we ask that the government fulfil its obligations of ensuring the reform of Nigeria’s Minerals and Mining Act and other extant regulations to conform to the ECOWAS mining directive in order to holistically develop the sector.
We also use this opportunity to reiterate our call for the expedited upgrade of the capacity of the Mining Cadastral Office to ensure even greater levels transparency in the beneficial ownership of mining companies and affiliated matters.
“As mining host communities bear the environmental and economic brunt of the unregulated activities of these miscreants, we make a special call to include civil society actors and representatives of mining host communities in the composition of each state’s Mineral Resources and Environmental Committees (MIREMCO) to ensure a function – friendly protection of the rights of mining host states and effective synergies between states and the federal government.”
The groups call on government to ensure the creation of a level playing field for local investors through the promotion and capacity building of local mining cooperatives, and the facilitation of credit systems for them.
They commend the efforts of Hon. Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, in curbing the intrusion of illegal foreign miners in Nigeria’s extractive sector, and call for the immediate prosecution of the arrested illegal miners to serve as a deterrent to others.
And also reminded the government of a post- Covid Nigeria, that must diversify its economy, and develop the potentials of its mining sector for its growth and development.