Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, has said Nigeria’s quest for economic diversification may be an exercise in futility if states are not involved in the process leading to the granting of mining licences in the country.
Ishaku, who spoke in an interview with some editors, stated that due to exclusion of mineral-rich states from the process, they were deprived of huge revenue, which could be channeled into critical infrastructure provision and human capacity development. He said avoidable conflicts also occur between those granted mining licences and owners of land in the states. Noting that listing mining under the exclusive list was wrong, the governor called for an “implementable law” guiding mining activities that involves the states, and suggested that such law should be the type that allows states with rich minerals deposits to be involved in the mining licensing process. While lamenting that mining activities in the state were currently in the hands of illegal miners, he argued that if the right mining environment was put in place, the mining companies would pay all the required taxes to the federal and state government and also take care of the host communities.
According to him, “There are a lot of taxes, which for now we are not getting. After agriculture, the second revenue endowment in the (Taraba) state is mining, and up till now we only have illegal miners, no thanks to lack of enabling law or laws that are not implementable.
“But we are trying our best. We have been talking to the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals and Development on how we can co-cooperate so that we can have a law that is implementable and make it easy for people who want to mine legally to do so and pay their taxes to the federal government, the state government and also take care of the local communities.
“But a situation where the state governments are sidelined completely in the law that allows somebody to get a mining licence, come to the state, mount his equipment and start mining is wrong and unworkable, and this has been a hindrance for a lot of states.
The law lists mining, just like anything below the surface of the ground in terms of mineral resources, as belonging to the federal government; yet the law recognises me as the owners of the surface, how then do you access what is below the surface if you don’t touch the initial layer at the top?. So without me allowing you to live on the surface, how do you access what is under the surface?”
Ishaku further explained that many of the states with rich mineral deposits would become economically viable and will not have to depend on federal allocation if they are allowed to control the mineral deposits within their boundaries and suggested that the states should be allowed to control the mineral deposits within their boundaries and made to pay royalties to the federal government.
“We have fashioned out our own laws within the state and we will soon put it into practice, and we’re trying to see how we can marry our laws with that of the federal government. But this remains a hindrance to the mining industry in the state; I wish we could get many miners into the state under the right environment because we have so many minerals resources in the state.
“We have more than 30 different kinds of solid mineral resources in Taraba State, the seven rarest minerals are found here. Somebody like me has no business in Abuja going to look for subventions to pay workers’ salary if things were made to work properly,” he stated.
Also speaking on the clashes between Fulani Herdsmen and farmers, Ishaku maintained that adopting the ranching model was the best solution to the issue insisting that if government failed to adopt the model the clashes would continue adding that ranching had both economical and nutritional benefits.
Ishaku, who stated that there used to be mutual understanding between farmers and herdsmen noted that, it was in the country’s interest to ensure that the two lived in harmony. According to him, the country needs meat and cow milk as much as it needs farm produce.
While arguing that open grazing had become outdated he added that he had seen the model work perfectly well in the United States.
“We need to educate our people; there is nothing wrong with ranching. Ranching will provide a place to keep the cattle, ranching will provide employment opportunity for the person that will grow the grass and sell. We will try the model here and see how it works.
“If we don’t adopt the ranching model, we will continue to witness increased clashes between our people. Is that what we want? Obviously, not; we need the farmers to farm so that we could have food; we also need the cattle owners so that we could have meat and the milk. Honestly, if you ask me I think ranching is the best solution. On our part in Taraba state, we will do something in that regards,” he stated.
Tracing the cause of the clashes to pressure on land and increasing population, he lamented that herding had been left to youths, who were in the habit of using illicit drugs and thus quick to anger.
“I am just telling you the scenario of our culture and then the problems that we have at hand. We are 200 million people and we are still going ahead. What used to happen was that, I am from Takum, when they come down the mountains they go through Takum, those who have farms there usually encourage them to stay around the farm for about one month before they continue because the farms have been harvested, the corns have been harvested and the corn stalks are available for the feeding of the cows, they even give them water free of charges and the cows excrete their meals on the farm and they go away peacefully. That was what obtains in those days. They don’t quarrel, fight or kill themselves; but now you see Fulani herdsman who has AK47 rifle.
“The people rearing cattle now are not the people that we used to know, cattle rearing is now left to boys who smoke wee wee and use drugs, so when farm owners challenge them on why they destroyed their farm, they flare up, bring out a gun and begin to shoot everybody in sight. Of what good is it to kill somebody because of quarrel over a land?”