PDP Resolves S’South Govs, Zamfara Counterpart’s Feud over Gold Revenue

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By Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in collaboration with the Chairman of the party’s governors’ forum, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, has settled the misunderstanding between South-south governors and their Zamfara State counterpart, Mr. Bello Matawalle, over the ownership of the revenue from the sale of gold in the state.

The South-south governors, miffed by the allegation that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) purchased gold worth N5 billion from the Zamfara State Government, had kicked, demanding that same gesture should be extended to oil in their domain.

They had said if the Zamfara State Government should retain the revenue from the sale of gold in the state, then the South-south should control the proceeds from the sale of crude oil in the zone.

However, the state government, in a statement by the spokesman to the governor, Mr. Zailani Baffa, had cleared the air, saying that it bought the gold from artisanal miners licensed by the federal government.

The federal government also cautioned the Zamfara State Government against creating the impression that it owns the gold deposits in the state.

Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, had in a statement, said mineral products remained exclusively that of the federal government.

Notwithstanding the clarifications, there was uproar in the South-south with Niger Delta youths, under the auspices of Young Democratic Movement (YDM) and South-South Youth Assembly (SSYA), giving the federal government a four-day ultimatum to share the proceeds from the gold sale among all the states as usually done with oil resources.

The six governors of South-south had also met in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, under the umbrella of the Forum of South-South Governors, where they discussed issues around the mining of gold in Zamfara State.

It was gathered that the governors were looking towards taking a common decision on the Zamfara gold issue at the meeting, which would be forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Delta State Governor and Chairman of the forum, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, had said they were planning a meeting over the issue.

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.”

However, the position of the South-south governors had infuriated Matawalle, who, in a statement, said: “I am having a very bad experience of recent from some of my PDP governor colleagues which I still find very puzzling.

“For instance, the South-south governors accusing me in the media are PDP governors and they are the same people who brewed controversy over the so-called Zamfara gold, premised on deliberate misinformation and outright lies.”

Matawalle added that it was the APC-controlled federal government, which has all the correct records on the gold mining issue, that defended him in the saga.

Matawalle had alleged that it was the bad blood within the PDP governors that led to Ebonyi State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi, to defect to the APC.

THISDAY’s investigation, however, revealed that the PDP leadership and the Tambuwal convened a peace meeting between the South-south governors and Matawalle where the matter was resolved peacefully.

A party source privy to the meeting told THISDAY that following a peace shuttle by Tambuwal, “the matter was resolved peacefully.”

The source gave credit to the Sokoto State governor for providing leadership that facilitated the quick resolution of the misunderstanding.

“I can tell there is ‘no victor no vanquish’ in this matter. It was an issue blown out of proportion due to the misgovernance in the country. But the leadership of PDP stepped in and it was resolved between the South-south governors and their counterpart in Zamfara State, Governor Bello Matawalle. It was a misunderstanding blown out of proportion but it is over now,” the official said.

The National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, also told THISDAY yesterday that “it(issue) has been resolved and there is an understanding by the governors on this issue.”

Also, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, told THISDAY that the seeming misunderstanding has been settled amicably.