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Powerful Nigerians Sponsor Illegal Mining and Terrorism, FG Admits

Minister of Solid Minerals reveals the sponsors of banditry and insurrection in the country

by Motoni Olodun

The Federal Government has made a surprising U-turn in its stance on the link between illegal mining and insecurity in the country. It has now admitted that some powerful Nigerians are behind the activities of bandits and terrorists who exploit the nation’s mineral resources.

The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, disclosed this on Tuesday while defending the ministry’s 2024 budget proposal before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals in Abuja. He said that the ministry had identified some of the individuals involved and was employing various strategies, both kinetic and non-kinetic, to arrest the menace.

This revelation contradicts the previous claims by the minister and other government officials that foreign illegal miners were the main sponsors of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria. In October, Alake told state house correspondents that foreign illegal miners were behind the insecurity in the country, especially in the North-west region where gold mining is prevalent. He also accused some Chinese nationals of being involved in illegal mining and funding banditry.

However, in his meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday, Alake changed his tune and said that most of the illegal miners were not foreigners, but powerful Nigerians who use foreigners as fronts. He said that these Nigerians were the real powers behind the insecurity and insurrection in the country and that they were being monitored by the ministry and security agencies.

“One pernicious discovery that we made, Mr Chairman, is that a lot of these banditry, terrorisms, and insecurities that we identified in this sector are actually sponsored by illegal miners. These illegal miners are not artisanal miners or people who pick gold rusts on the ground.

“These are heavy and powerful individuals in our country, and they are Nigerians, not foreigners. Yes, you can see foreigners as symptoms and not diseases. Nigerians are the powers behind those foreigners that you see. We are identifying them, and we are employing various strategies, both kinetic and non-kinetic with the artisanal, who are at the lower ladder of illegal mining,” he said.

Alake also lamented the low budget allocation for the solid mineral sector, which he said was hampering the exploration and development of the sector. He said that the sector had the potential to contribute not less than 50 percent to the nation’s GDP, as it had over 44 minerals valued at over $700 billion. He appealed to the committee to consider increasing the budget for the sector to at least N250 billion for exploration activities.

The chairman of the committee, Gaza Gbefwi, expressed concern over the security and environmental challenges posed by illegal mining in the country. He said that the committee would support the ministry to address these issues and reposition the sector as a key driver of economic diversification and growth.

Illegal mining has been a long-standing problem in Nigeria, with negative impacts on the environment, public health, security, and the economy. According to the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Nigeria lost about N16.25 trillion to illegal mining between 2009 and 2020. The activities of illegal miners have also been linked to the proliferation of arms and ammunition, as well as the funding of banditry and terrorism in some parts of the country.

The government has taken some steps to curb illegal mining and regulate the sector, such as the establishment of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI), the launch of a web-based platform for mining licenses and permits, and the deployment of security operatives to mining sites. However, these measures have not been enough to deter the illegal miners and their sponsors, who continue to exploit the loopholes in the system and the lack of enforcement.

The admission by the minister that some powerful Nigerians are behind illegal mining and terrorism is a welcome development, as it shows that the government is willing to confront the root causes of the problem and not just the symptoms. However, the government must also back up its words with actions and ensure that those involved are identified, exposed, and prosecuted, regardless of their status or influence. The government must also increase its investment and support for the solid mineral sector, to enable it to realize its full potential and contribute to the nation’s development.

Source: The Guardian Nigeria


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