Seeks amendment of law to allow states participate in exploration
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The federal government has disclosed that it plans to embark on massive exploration of solid minerals to achieve a target of five per cent contribution of the sector to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) within the next five years.
It therefore called for an amendment to the solid mineral exploration law to allow for more participation by states and host communities as a way to develop the sector.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said these when he addressed members of the House of Representatives at the continuation of sectoral debate aimed at discussing economic diversification yesterday.
Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, vests the control and management of all minerals deposits and natural gas on land and in waters in the federal government.
He fielded questions from the lawmakers at the session presided over by House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
The minister lamented that while the non oil sector contributed between 40-45 per cent to national economy in the 1960s, it now contributes a measly 0.33 per cent.
He disclosed that Nigeria lacks the data on quality, quantity and viability of the solid minerals within its borders, and has not shown much interest in rectifying these to attract investors into the sector.
“In 2015, Burkina Faso spent $150 million on exploration of their solid minerals resources, Ghana spent $120 million, Nigeria spent only $300,000… but the truth is if you don’t dig, you don’t find,” Fayemi said.
There is no official record of gold being explored in the country, Fayemi said but cited intelligence reports which have shown that Nigerian gold is being sold in the international market.
“The gold is taken from Nigeria to Ghana to be stamped because you cannot sell unlicenced gold in the international market,” he added.
Speaking on the right of states to explore solid minerals, Fayemi maintained that the exclusive rights belong to the federal government.
There is however nothing in the law that suggests that states cannot participate in exploration, he said, recalling that several states have already established solid minerals exploration companies in partnership with the private sector.
“If we will make a headway in mining, states and host communities must play active roles,” he noted, adding that the states would benefit from 13 per cent derivation as is being done in the oil sector.
This would however only be possible if the laws are amended.
He also assured stakeholders that the federal government has no plans to criminalise the activities of ‘informal’ miners who are widely regarded as illegal miners.
The over five million people involved in informal mining would be trained and equipped so they can participate in the junior mining sector, Fayemi said.
The government is also focusing on steel, and is working to resolve all legal issues surrounding the Ajaokuta steel company to ensure its revival, he added.