- NIWA has exclusive right to Nigerian waterways, says Fayemi
Abimbola Akosile and Chinedu Eze in Lagos, Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The Federal Government has declared that it would no longer condone the activities of some foreign nationals who take unprocessed minerals through illegal routes out of Nigeria; thereby denying the country of revenue accrued to it through its vast mineral endowment.
The federal government, through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, noted that it has commenced moves aimed at making it an offence for anyone to take unprocessed minerals out of the country.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi disclosed this recently at a Town Hall meeting with stakeholders in the mining sector, which took place in Abuja.
According to him, “government is taking the security of mines more seriously, and a special task force has been put in place to check nefarious activities in mining sites and also to ensure compliance with environmental and security regulations”.
The Minister agreed with stakeholders at the meeting that the activities of some foreigners who take out unprocessed minerals had robbed the youth of the country of massive job opportunities in the sector.
“Government was aware of activities of some foreign nationals who take out of the country unprocessed minerals through illegal routes thereby denying the country of revenue accrued to it through its vast mineral endowment. They will be doing that at their own peril henceforth,” he pledged.
Fayemi said while unauthorised export of unprocessed minerals is injurious to the economic plan of the government, the ministry’s current focus is to ensure that operators set up plants in the country, process the minerals and can then export the finished product.
“Taking out unprocessed minerals under any guise is unacceptable and we have taken a firm position on this. We will make it difficult for anybody to take out unprocessed minerals. We are working with the Customs and other relevant security agencies to put an end to this.
“We will support and encourage operators to set up plants, process the minerals here and you can then export it. The economic diversification and employment generation can only be realised with operators cooperating with government on the mining policy”, the minister added.
Fayemi noted that Nigeria has one of the best mining laws, and that enforcement has always been a challenge, adding that many criminally-minded individuals had taken advantage of this poor enforcement to enrich themselves at the expense of the country.
He announced that the Nigerian Police has responded to the security issue with the establishment of Mines Division in all its state commands.
The Mine Police, which according to the Minister was structured after the Mine Police, which was active in the sixties and seventies, would help to halt criminal activities in the sector.
Fayemi lauded the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for the Mine Police initiative, and urged artisanal and operators in the country to comply with regulations guiding the mining sector as contained in the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.
In a related development, the minister has restated the federal government’s resolve to synergise with stakeholders in the mining sector at state level to see what opportunities and interventions that both parties could benefit from and add value to the resources within their domain.
Fayemi, disclosed this at the Government House, Kaduna, during a courtesy visit to the Acting Governor, Arc Barnabas Bala-Bantex ahead of his tour of mining sites and mineral bearing communities in the state.
He explained that it was not enough to stay back in Abuja and just receive reports and requests concerning mineral endowments of various States and communities, but that it was necessary to see what are on ground and interact with stakeholders to see what kinds of opportunities and interventions they could benefit from and add value to the resources within their domain.
According to him, “mining activities in the country are set to witness a boost through value addition and greater level of involvement by state governments. We are also working with states in providing the technical and financial support so that they can enter the mainstream of mining rather than operating illegally.
“But the duty we owe to our people is to also enlighten them on the need to engage in formal and organised mining practice. If you do this in a formal and organised manner, you will make more money; you will not be cheated by middlemen who took advantage of the unorganised system.”
The minister said illegal mining was a source of concern for the government, adding that steps were being taken to address the challenges. He said the government had been active in pulling together the artisanal and informal miners to reduce illegal mining.
“These middlemen have often encouraged these illegal miners to escalate dangerous minerals that could be injurious to their health. We have a duty to teach them safer mining process and to ensure that they have the tools to be able to conduct legitimate trade.”
He revealed that the ministry was prepared to partner states to include these miners in the scheme of things by formally issuing them small scale licence for such operations.
“It is not everybody that can be a major or mega miner, but for those who are small artisanal miners, they can pull their resources together to achieve the economics of scale in this regard,” he said
The minister enjoined the Kaduna State government, based on the partnership it enjoys with the Ministry, to take more advantage of the provisions of the Roadmap and get more value from its mineral resources. He commiserated with the government and people of the State on the recent disturbances in Southern Kaduna.
The Acting Governor expressed pleasure that the Minister chose Kaduna State to begin the interactive tour and remarked that Kaduna was the first State to key into the roadmap, adding that the State had begun formalising the activities of illegal miners in a manner that would bring benefits to all parties. He assured the minister and his team of adequate security during the duty tour of the State.
Meanwhile, Fayemi has stressed the need for the resuscitation of the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company, for the meaningful development of the steel sector.
According to the Minister, “we need to consider local content in steel. The Ajaokuta steel company has the capacity to produce 1.5m metric tonnes and can be expanded to 3m metric tonnes annually.”
Fayemi, who disclosed during a Town Hall meeting organised by his ministry for stakeholders in Abeokuta, added “today in Nigeria, we consume about 7m metric tonnes annually but we produce about 3m tonnes. That means that the remaining 4m metric tonnes are being imported.”
He therefore, called on state governments to grant tariff and tax incentives to operators in the steel sector, to enhance industrialisation in the country. He said “I think we need a combination of tariff and tax incentives in our steel sector. We cannot achieve industrialisation unless we conquer steel.”
He hinted that officials of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and auditors from state governments engaged in mining, would meet to consider modalities for appropriate percentage for derivation.
In his contribution, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun affirmed that the state possesses about 40 per cent of mining resources in Nigeria.
The Governor, who said the status had made Ogun the leading state in mining sector in the country, expressed regret that the state had not been fairly treated in terms of what was accruable to it from the federal purse in relation to what the State contributed to the nation in the non-oil sector.
He assured of his administration’s support and cooperation in the development of the Mines and Steel industry, calling on the federal government to carry the state along in its policies on the issuance of mining licence to operators.
Amosun said the mining sector had great potentials in terms of contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) especially employment and wealth creation, adding that the welfare and condition of the people in the areas where mining activities were taking place must be put into consideration.
The Minister has also asserted that the authority to regulate activities on the waterways in Nigeria belongs to the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
Fayemi, who made this known in Lagos at the weekend, told sand miners and other users that they are answerable to NIWA and any other authority is subordinate to the agency.
The minister, who was in Lagos as part of his Ministry’s nationwide town hall meeting with stakeholders, noted that the law of the land specifically mandated NIWA to manage and control all activities on all water bodies in Nigeria and that fact has not changed.
“The position of the law as I understand it is that everyone who needs to do business on Nigeria waterways needs NIWA permit and that position has not changed, so if you need to do sand mining or related activities, you must approach NIWA to get permit and that is the position of law today”.
While fielding questions from stakeholders, especially sand miners, the Minister explained that NIWA and the Ministry of Mines would work together to ensure that stakeholders are protected and pleaded with all concerned to be patient until the aforementioned agencies work out modalities that would be acceptable to all.
“I have taken notice of the sad development whereby many organisations or individuals rush to the courts to obtain judgments. We are studying the scenario but I will urge that all concerned give us chance to sort things out. NIWA and Mines Ministry work for the Federal Government and therefore cannot fight each other. We at the Ministry of Mines are also part of the ongoing review of the NIWA act at the National Assembly, so we understand ourselves and cannot be at logger heads”.
In his response, NIWA area manager in Lagos, Engr. Muazu Sambo explained that Fayemi was right in his observations and noted that all decisions taken by NIWA in Lagos were approved by the leadership of the regulatory body in Lokoja where its headquarters is located.
“I want to thank the Minister for his candid position on the NIWA law and to add that NIWA in Lagos does nothing on its own without the express approval of the management led by Boss Mustapha”, he noted.
Sambo also noted that NIWA regulatory fees or charges are not taxes as captured by the Nigerian Tax Policy and therefore encouraged stakeholders to reach out to the Lagos office for clarification before making unfounded allegations.