Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government has enjoined artisanal miners to form co-operative societies to meet the conditions set to access the N2.5 billion Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF) and grow the sector.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, gave the advice when the Chief Executive Officer of TVC Communications, Andrew Hanlon, paid him a courtesy visit in his office yesterday in Abuja.
Adegbite said in its effort to steer the economy away from crude oil to other areas of revenue generation, the present administration has provided about N2.5 billion for artisanal mining activities.
He stated that any co-operative society that meets the requirements would be granted access to the funds, adding that the current administration is committed to carrying on government business and activities in an honest and transparent manner.
According to him, “I admit that three years down the line, the money is yet to be disbursed as was expected, and the purpose for which the SMDF was put together in 2016 was to help mainly artisanal miners to develop.
“But the good thing about that is that the money is still intact; the only disbursement made to the tune of about N95 million was been made to a quarry in Oyo State.”
The minister said the problem militating against its disbursement was how to design a model that would work effectively, adding that “there is this tendency to see government money as a share of the national cake, and we are being careful not to throw away the government money. We are encouraging the miners to go into cooperatives through which they will be able to access the money easily and at a very low interest rate as it was meant.”
He added: “When one or two members of a cooperative group take the money, they have to return it so that others can take in their turn, or other members will put pressure on them to pay back so they too can access, so there’s going to be pressure.
“We are also thinking of equipment leasing; we want to use part of the fund to acquire equipment that will be placed at strategic places across the country for the miners to access and use for their mining opera