Okowa: We cannot apply laws in such a manner that it becomes discriminatory; you cannot mine solid minerals somewhere in Zamfara and you won’t allow Niger Delta manage their oil
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
It has now been confirmed that the six governors of the South- south region will meet in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Monday, under the umbrella of the Forum of South-South Governors, to discuss issues around the mining of gold in Zamfara State.
A source close to one of the governors told THISDAY last night that all arrangements for the meeting had been concluded and that Governor Nyesom Wike is excited hosting the crucial meeting.
“The governors are looking towards taking a common decision on the Zamfara gold issue on Monday. This decision will be forwarded to President Buhari. South-south states also want ‘artisanal’ mining of oil,” added the source.
Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, had last Wednesday expressed worry at “federal government’s apparent tacit endorsement of the decision of Zamfara State to assume exclusive right to solid minerals in the state, particularly the gold deposits.”
Okowa then hinted that the South-south governors were planning a meeting over the issue and that they were unanimous on the need to address the constitutionality of the alleged Zamfara government’s action.
In a veiled reference to the federal government’s support for “artisanal mining of gold”, particularly with President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, Okowa vowed that the South-south states would resist “such a discriminatory disposition, that runs foul of the constitutional provision on ownership of mining rights in Nigeria.”
Okowa, who is the Chairman of the Forum, assured that the governors were united in their support for unattended issues of restructuring and devolution of more powers, as well as resources down to the local government level.
Okowa said, “The South-south governors have been in the forefront for the devolution of power to states and local governments. Restructuring, resource control and security of the country, especially in the Niger Delta will be a major topic of discussion at the Presidential parley coming up in Port Harcourt.
“There are Acts of the National Assembly that dealt specifically and unequivocally with oil production and solid minerals. We cannot apply laws in such a manner that it becomes discriminatory because you cannot mine solid minerals somewhere in Zamfara and not allow Niger Delta to manage their oil.”
The Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) is a comprehensive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development programme, launched in 2019 to foster the formalisation and integration of artisanal gold mining activities into Nigeria’s legal, economic, and institutional framework.
Federal government, in collaboration with the Kebbi State Government, inaugurated the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining and Biometric Data Capture and Enrolment Exercise in Yauri Local Government Area of Kebbi in February.
The programme, which is a federal government initiative to be operated by PAGMI, in partnership with the Kebbi State Government, will formalise the artisanal mining groups for the much needed support and capacity building aimed at upscaling their processes, creating more jobs and enhancing incomes.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite said the steps taken would lead to improved practices, access to finance and equipment, create jobs and sanitise the artisanal miners’ operations.
The minister added: “Undoubtedly, it will grow the economy of the state through diversification into solid minerals development.”
Executive Secretary of the Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi explained that Kebbi and Osun were selected to kick start the pilot project.
She said the programme was part of President Buhari’s economic diversification agenda through the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
She said: “Federal government wants to create more jobs in rural areas of Nigeria in line with his mission to create million jobs.”
Fatima further said the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) would enroll the first batch of artisanal gold miners under the pilot scheme.