By Maurice Ogu

A coalition of Nigerian mining host communities and Civil Society groups in the mining sector has called for speedy dispensation of justice in cases involving 19 foreigners and 21 Nigerians arrested recently for illegal mining activities in Osun and Zamfara states.

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While applauding the combined efforts of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and security agencies in apprehending the suspects, the coalition urged the government and relevant authorities for “immediate prosecution” of the persons involved in the illegal activities.  

In a communiqué jointly signed by the Federation of Nigerian Mining Host Communities and Civil Society Coalition on Nigeria’s Mining Sector, the group condemned what it called “the preferential treatment” accorded to the Chinese  migrants and “undue pressure” on some members in the mining ministry to obstruct justice.

“We note 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,” the statement said.

The coalition worried about the level of impunity in Nigeria and warned that such act is capable of destroying the mining sector, which has the great potential to generate substantial revenue to Nigeria.

It said: “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 its 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 were found culpable, the arrest and prosecution of their ‘godfathers’ and enablers.

“The 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,” the statement said.

On the ongoing upgrade of Mining Cadastral Office to enable it carry out real time activities, the coalition urged government to carry out this exercise in the utmost spirit of transparency that will benefit all the stakeholders in the mining industry.

“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 coalition said.

The coalition also called on the Federal Government to create 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.

As COVID-19 has brought unprecedented obstruction to the country’s oil revenue, the coalition urged the government to pay more attention to the potentials in the mining sector of the economy.

“We remind the government that a post-COVID-19 Nigeria is a Nigeria that must diversify its economy, and enhance the potentials its mining sector has for its growth and development.

“Therefore, leakages in our economy through nepotism, godfatherism and corruption must end.

“Hence, we will be monitoring this case with utmost interest, and register our continued willingness to partner with the government to curb illegal activities within the sector,” the statement said.

MAURICE OGU (@cojmaurice)

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