Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The searchlight was beamed on the activities of some state governors yesterday as the duo of a Minister and Senator accused them of sharp practices costing the nation a fortune.
Mines and Solid Mineral Development Minister, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite and Chairman, Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Senator Tanko Almakura, in their various submissions accused governors of covertly supporting theft of the nation’s resources through illegal mining in their states.
Speaking at an interactive session with the committee, the minister said the challenge of illegal mining was being supported by some state governors who provide security to illegal miners while on the field carrying out their nefarious activities.
His words: “We have some state governments that are encouraging these foreign nationals that we are talking about and that is why you see them with security. When they send them to go and do this yes they needed police. What do you expect a mining officer to do when the state government is backing this illegal mining?”
According to him, the federal government in a bid to diversify the economy has turned its attention towards Russia to seek expertise in its renewed effort at fixing the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
He said the Russians have assured of completing the project at their own cost but was still exploring a Joint Venture Cash calls (JVC) Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) or Build and Transfer (BT) to revive the steel complex which has not been running at its optimal capacity for over 30 years.
On his part, Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy chairman emphasised that such governors are illegal miners themselves.
He canvassed for a non-punitive approach to resolving the matter which is on the exclusive list of government restricting state direct development of the sector.
Almakura called on all stakeholders to evolve legal and structural measures to incorporate state governments to participate in solid minerals development.
The former governor of Nasarawa State wondered: “Why are they giving support to illegal miners? Now the simple response or answer to that is that they are helping illegal miners because they are illegal miners themselves.
“There is no where illegal mining can take place without the knowledge of the community; you cannot illegally mine mineral without the consent and the participation of the community. It then means that we must find ways, structurally and legally to encourage state government not to participate in illegal mining.
“That is only by carving a role for them. If you look at the law on mining it is in the exclusive list. There is need for us to come together, the Senate, the House of representatives the stakeholders and even practitioners in the industry to sit down and unbundle this to give every segment or every level of government some measure of participation without usurping the exclusive legislative rights.
“I was a governor in Nasarawa state for eight years, in spite of all the hot air about Nasarawa being the home of solid minerals, I do not think Nasarawa sate government up to N100 mn from solid minerals.
“You could see if LG and state government are given a role, it will go a long way of giving them a sense of participation. We need everybody to be carried along. It is not something, that will look punitive but something that will cause collaboration and cooperation. So that we can diversify the economy and create wealth for our people and employment.
He urged the state governments to be innovative and establish Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to be active players in the value addition to the raw materials to create employment and boost internally generated revenue for themselves.