Foreigners Exchange Arms for Gold in Zamfara, Says Governor

Zamfara State Governor, Mr. Bello Matawalle

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, yesterday raised the alarm that foreigners come to the state to trade guns with locals for mineral resources.

Matawalle, while answering questions from State House reporters in Abuja after showing a pack of gold mined from the state to President Muhammadu Buhari canvassed the creation of a platform for the state government by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the federal government to be buying mined resources from small- scale miners in the state.

According to him, foreign interests from South Africa and Russia will also be brought into the picture.
He attributed the exchange of guns for minerals as a source of insecurity in the state, adding that the president promised to support the state wherever it is required.

He added that the president directed the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, to work with the state on the exploration of its mineral resources as part of the diversification agenda.

He said: “It is very important to us as a government, particularly the issue of insecurity, to know the root cause of insecurity. Zamfara State is blessed with many mineral resources and some people outside the country come to buy gold and other precious stones and sometimes, instead of paying people, they pay back with arms. I did some investigations.

“So, the state government will be buying some of these minerals so that we can block that chain. So, now, the state government is engaging the miners. We will be buying some of this gold from them with the limited resources we have.

“We came to show him (Buhari) how the states can profit from illegal miners, especially in the bush. He has seen what we have. We have so many cases of guns in Zamfara State. He is very happy with the system we have initiated and he said whatever support the state government needs, the federal government is ready to assist us.

“In fact, he has given a directive to the minister of solid minerals to work with the state government to make Nigeria a great country in terms of solid minerals to diversify from oil to solid mineral resources.”
Matawalle said he was in the State House to brief Buhari about challenges confronting the state, notably illegal mining, adding that the state government is planning to strengthen local miners by helping them to form a cooperative society.

He stated that upon returning to the state, he would set up a committee to serve as the platform for patronage by the state, the federal government and the CBN.

“When I go back, we will set up a committee on PAGMI so that they can go round and the government and CBN will be buying from us directly.
“It is better they are selling it very cheap in the mining areas. The federal government, CBN and the state can come in and be buying from these small-scale miners,” he said.

On security, the governor deviated from popular opinions calling for the sacking of service chiefs, saying they should rather be supported.
According to him, security operatives deployed in the state are battling insecurity and have been able to contain killings in the state.

“As you had been hearing before, now the narration has changed. You won’t be hearing of mass killings in the state because the security (operatives) are doing their best. I equally advised the president that calling for the sacking of the service chiefs is not the solution.

“Let us support the security agencies and we as the governors will have a big role to play. We just have to support the security agencies no matter what. If the governors are not serious, they can’t achieve what they want.
“I advised the president that all those calling for the sacking of the security chiefs should think of the best way to support them to perform better instead of sacking them.

“Even if you sack them, you are bringing another one. So, let us use the one that we have. We will support them as a government. My state now is at peace and everybody is aware.

“We have more than 3,000 policemen going round the mining sites in order to protect the mining sites. We have security. It’s just for us as leaders to support them. I believe we will see a lot of changes in terms of security in this country,” he said.