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$9bn loss to activities of illegal miners, an indictment on Ministry—Expert

The recent revelation by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at the end of a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, that government lost $9bn between 2014 and 2015 to illegal miners has elicited reactions from stakeholders in the industry.

The Minister had explained that the $9bn loss in the sector was contained in a recent report prepared by the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), saying the loss was recorded mainly from the illegal export of gold, lead, tin and coal.

Though Fayemi averred that

The minister said the FEC therefore approved N987m for the purchase of 50 Toyota Hilux vehicles at the cost of over N19m each.

The vehicles, according to him, will be used for the monitoring and curbing of illegal mining in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

He said “The approval was sequel to the realisation that the deployment of one vehicle per state could not make significant impact in the monitoring of illegal mining activities”.

However, a Solid Mineral consultant in Zamfara, Alhaji Sani Yauri confided in our correspondent that “The figure rolled out refers to what happened even before the emergence of this government. And if the current government is only waking up from the slumber to understand that special security is supposed to be given to the solid mineral sector, it means that the minister lacked understanding of how the sector works”.

“I want to believe that the source that told NEITI that government lost $9bn before the coming of this government, have in stock, what Nigeria has lost from the same sector even during the period of this government, but just want be diplomatic.

“We in the industry has told government that you cannot stay in a well furnished office in Abuja and superintend activities in the mining sector especially in gold and tin and even coal. Illegal activities have been going on everywhere in parts of the north. It depends if you wish to term it illegal.

He said “Some of us are aware that majority of the mining activities are not within the purview of the government. It is so because the government is facing oil and gas while huge good money is flying away in Solid Minerals sector.”

“Recall that just recently, a report revealed that over $100bn had been bled away by illegal miners and what happened the next day, nothing by the government. Even with the NEITI report, nothing will still happen either because they are still facing oil money, or they chose to remove their face because their cronies are involved.

“My brother let me tell you; you cannot get involved in illegal gold or tin mining or even coal if you are not with deep pocket and also highly connected. So tell me how the business will stop.

Alhaji Yauri noted that “All the losses in illegal mining are well known to the Ministry and every minister to is appointed in the ministry since the beginning of Nigeria. The problem has been and will continue to be lack of political will to face reality in fighting corruption and illegal mining in northern Nigeria. Nigerians should not be deceived by anybody either the minister or the ministry. They have been aware of all that is happening here”.

On the new security measures which include purchasing new 50 Hilux trucks for surveillance; he decried the approval, saying “That is another embarrassment on the collective intelligence of citizens who live with these illegal miners”.

“The best option to me, is to declare amnesty and tell all illegal miners to surrender their mining sites and all facilities they had been operating to the government.

This will be followed by the government, truly factoring in the repentant illegal miners and incorporating them to a workable employment policy that will grow the industry and also provide credible jobs for locals.

“Fighting illegal miners is beyond buying new Hilux be it 50 or 100,000. It will not make sense. Even, if care is not taken, some of those new Hilux will be used to aid and abate the crime they come to fight, mark my word here on this matter. These new cars will end up being used to growing illegal mining.