Nigeria moves to block leakages in solid mineral revenues

*FG may clash with states over mining laws
*Raises alarm over radio-active matters in Jos mining sites

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

31 May 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – The Federal Government on Thursday disclosed that it had set up a task force to ensure that massive leakages in revenues that should accrue to the government from the exploitation of solid minerals mining resources are blocked.

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Musa Mohammed Sada, who made the disclosure in Abuja when he hosted members of the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals who were on an oversight function at the Ministry headquarters in Abuja, noted that billions of naira in revenue have been lost due to activities of illegal miners.

Sada noted that with the on-going reform in the sector, government’s main sources of revenue through mining activities have been limited to royalties and levies from mining operations as well as payments for mining licenses and permits for use of explosives in mining sites.

He said, “However, our investigations of several illegal mining sites across the country have exposed that huge amount of resources that otherwise should have accrued to the government through royalties and the like, are being lost to due to activities of illegal miners, who are mostly foreigners operating in rural communities in the country.

“In many of the areas visited, we discovered that many of the people engaging in illegal mining are mostly foreigners. In fact, there are areas you get to you would think you are in a Chinese village due to the number of Chinese people living really rustic lives due to their illegal mining activities.”

The Minister confirmed that President Goodluck Jonathan was set inaugurate a Mines Surveillance Task Force, which is one of the efforts by the Ministry to enhance transparency and accountability for revenues generated from mining operations in the country.

The task force which will ensure that leakages in mining revenue – through royalties and other levies – are closed, will also work to ensure security at mining sites across the country.

“This is part of our efforts to reform the sector and make it a huge contributor to the national economy. The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) is also helping with this effort through its on-going maiden audit of the mining and minerals sector,” Sada added.

Meanwhile, the Minister has raised the alarm over the use of radio-active materials from mining sites by residents of Jos, in Plateau State for sundry purposes, warning that the trespassers risk contracting life threatening diseases through such acts.

According to him, geologists have discovered that some of the materials obtained from mining sites by the people for building their houses may have radio-active matter which could cause cancer.

He therefore warned the residents of the city to desist from using items or materials from the mining sites for building their houses, adding that the Federal government was determined to secure the mining sites and eliminate or contain incidences of leakages of dangerous materials that may harm citizens.

The Minister also complained about the activities of some state governments which has tampered with the operations of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, noting that some states had created miniature ministries of mines development, whose functions and roles merely duplicate that of the Federal ministry.

According to him, “Some of these ministries of mines development created by the states are simply there for nuisance value because they do not have the power to issue licences or permits. What they do is to go round and harass miners and operators who have legally obtained their titles from our Mining Cadastre Office.”

In a case that may lead to a clash between the Ministry and some state governments, only last week, the Ogun State government announced that it had put a ban on all mining activities in the state.

Sada pointed out that such an action by the state government was illegal, stressing that laws guiding mining and minerals exploitation are covered in the exclusive legislative list, and thus within the sole prerogative of the Federal government.

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