Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

By Bridget Tikyaa Ikyado

In spite of efforts of governments at various levels to diversify the economy, earn foreign exchange and create jobs, reports of illegal mining of solid minerals across many states of the federation are very disturbing. Data from the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Development show that illegal mining activities have continued to thrive in spite of government’s repeated threat to prosecute culprits.

Benue might not be the state with the highest number of mineral resources in Nigeria but the state has abundant mineral resources that have not been fully tapped and can be used to develop the state. Some of the minerals found in Benue State, both mined and untapped, include Baryte, Limestone, Gypsum, Natural gas, Lead, zinc, clay, coal, gold amongst several others.

Reports from the National Bureau of Statistics NBS show that the mining sector has the potential to contribute 23% to the nations Gross Domestic Product GDP.

Over the last years , another dimension to the insecurity in Benue, particularly in Kwande Local Government Area, has been the discovery of Gold, Lithium and other prescious minerals.

The influx of local and foreign illegal miners infiltrating the region has caused daily security unrest, environmental pollution and may result in food crises as most able bodied young men and women have ABANDONED their farmlands for mining sites.

Despite existing laws against illegal mining in the country, illegal miners are still exploiting the nations solid minerals sector.

Upon assumption of office as Governor, Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia announced the suspension of all forms of illegal logging and mining activities with a warning that it is against the law and anyone caught in any of the activities would face the full wrath of the law.

This gave rise to the setting up of various committees to work out frameworks to sanitize the sector.

The government also raised a powerful delegation that met with the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake in Abuja to fine-tune conversation on the State Government’s intent to secure approval for the exploration of mineral deposits.

Leader of the delegation and Deputy Governor of Benue State, Barr. Dr. Sam Ode, told the Minister that the administration of Rev. Fr. Dr. Hyacinth Alia is poised to improving the fortunes of the state in all sectors of the economy hence the need to diversify into the mining sector.

“Our focus is the rural populace. We need to give them value for the kind of confidence they have invested in the Alia administration,” he added.

The Deputy Governor who said solid minerals was one sector that hitherto was neglected and completely dormant in the state, assured the Minister that Benue State Government would play by the rules and adhere strictly to international best practices in the sector when their request is granted.

The Minister pledged to cooperate with Benue State Government to achieve its noble intention and further disclosed that state governments are free to apply for mining licenses and operate as corporate entities, so as to reduce friction and allow business to thrive.

“When business thrives, the operators will gain, host community will gain, state will gain and federal government will receive royalities as gain and that will have a multiplier effect on the economy,” Alake said.

The Minister promised to sanitise the entire mining environment and ensure that investors, whether states, individuals or corporate bodies operate under conducive atmosphere.

He applauded the initiative of Governor Hyacinth Alia and commended the Governor for “being a man of vision and purpose who is working hard to translate his vision into reality”.

On her part, Director General, Benue State Bureau of Entrepreneurship and Wealth Creation, Benita Shuluwa said the State Government is seeking approval for the exploration of the state’s mineral resources in line with the extant laws.

“We want to sanitise the mining sector in the state to be in line with the law, to allow us to explore opportunities in that sector and we seek your collaboration and approval to enable the state actualize this objective,” she said.

Ms. Shuluwa further noted that out of the 44 mineral deposits that exist across the country, Benue State has 34 of those solid minerals.

Also, the state consultant on mineral exploration and Chief Executive Officer of SoundCore Group, Anthony Nwakalor said the government “understand the responsibility on our shoulders to provide some light in the sector, which is a very technical sector, and to make sure that the state activities are in line with your vision”.

He pledged his company’s firm commitment to make sure that Benue State becomes a model of how mining should be done.

Similarly, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice & Public Order, Barr. Fidelis Mnyim, and the Commissioner for Lands and Solid Minerals, Barr. Martins Shaagee, thanked the Minister and promised that the state will operate according to the laws governing the mining sector.

To drive the commitment of the government, Governor Alia said that the state make a case to the Federal Government to include it in the payment of 13% derivation given to states with mineral deposits from the federation account.

The Governor noted while receiving a report on Illegal Mining, Logging and Road Blocks, that in spite of the huge mineral deposits, Benue state was yet to gain federal attention and included in the revenue sharing formula.

He said, rather, some economic saboteurs were taking undue advantage of that lack of recognition to defraud the people of their economic endowment.

He expressed certainty that the reports of the taskforce would not only provide opportunity for government to Change the ugly narrative and check activities of the economic saboteurs but also provide the state with a road map to access the untapped economic potential for the benefit of all citizens.

The Governor thanked the three committees, promising that their reports would be carefully studied with a view to implementing the recommendations.

Some of the recommendations include urgent recruitment and equipping of forest guards,
the establishment of a Forestry commission and conduct of forensic audit of the forest reserves in the state, and enhancing synergy with the state Internal Revenue Service to check revenue losses.

Dr Comfort Adadu, the Chairman, Taskforce on Illegal Mining, identified non-compliance to agreement between miners and host communities and multiple taxations as some of the impediments in the mining sector and called on government to appoint competent and technical persons to coordinate the industry as well as train revenue collectors on mineral resources.

 

One of such committees is the Mineral Resources and Environment Management Committee MIREMCO, which is chaired by the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and Public Order.

The Mineral Resources and Environment Management Committee MIREMCO is mandated to ensure that mineral deposits in the state are fully developed, and advising the Minister of Solid Minerals on issues related to the sector.

The committee will also serve as a link between the Federal Government, the State and communities where the minerals are found.

With 34 out of the 44 solid minerals in Nigeria found to be in large commercial deposits in Benue State, the committee is set to ensure smooth mining activities in Benue communities, and good working relationship between the locals and mining companies.

It is also to ensure that the state receives the relevant dues and charges, including collection of the 13% royalties on mining to support the government’s revenue collection drive.

It is however regretable that activities of illegal miners and improper coordination of mining activities were threatening the revenue generation drive.

To curtail this problem, MIREMCO is profiling prospective licensed miners to help check the infiltration of criminal elements.

Although mining on the Exclusive List, controlled by the Federal Government, the lands where mining takes place is held by the state Government in trust for the people, as such due process must be followed in carrying out mining activities.

There is every need for the elites to get involved and sensitize members of their communities on the dangers of allowing unauthorized persons access to their communities for mining. Traditional rulers should also be cautioned to refrain from unlawfully ceding lands to prospective miners as only the state government has the right to approve lands for use by anyone for such purpose.

Beyond the lamentations over illegal mining, the government should come up with concrete policies that will regulate the mining sector.

As MIREMCO carries out it’s responsibilities, it is expected that since it is headed by Barrister Fidelis Mnyim who is a reknowned professional with extensive experience in the legal sector, there is need to advise the Federal Government to review the nations mining laws. Such a review should take into consideration the participation of the state governments, private persons and genuine foreign investors duly licensed by the appropriate authorities.

Members of MIREMCO should carryout it’s statutory responsibility without any delay so as to as to develop the solid minerals sector as another source of revenue generation for Benue State.

Bridget Tikyaa Ikyado
Head, Media &Publicity/Strategic Communications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *