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FG sets up marshals against illegal mining

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By Abraham Adekunle

NSCDC poised to checkmate illegal mining of solid minerals across the country.

In a bid to clamp down on the rampant scourge of illegal mining of solid minerals across Nigeria, the federal government has initiated the deployment of “Mining Marshals” under the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). This strategic move was officially inaugurated by the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, during the commemoration of the 2024 International Civil Defence Day at the NSCDC headquarters in Abuja. The introduction of Mining Marshals marks a pivotal step towards combating the illicit exploitation of the country’s mineral resources. These specialized units will collaborate closely with the Ministry of Solid Minerals to enforce regulations and safeguard Nigeria’s precious natural assets.

Under this initiative, each state command of the NSCDC is slated to establish its own contingent of mining marshals, with an initial deployment of 60 personnel per state. Minister Tunji-Ojo emphasized the critical role of the Corps in safeguarding various national assets, including oil and gas infrastructure, power facilities, and telecommunications networks. The Mining Marshals, equipped with specialized training and resources, are entrusted with the vital task of securing Nigeria’s mineral-rich regions and deterring illicit mining activities. Addressing attendees at the ceremony, including his third anniversary in office, the Commandant General (CG) of the NSCDC, Ahmed Audi, underscored the magnitude of the challenge posed by illegal mining operations.

Illegal mining poses major challenges to the country.

With over 1,175 illegal mining sites identified across the country, the establishment of Mining Marshals is a proactive measure aimed at curtailing unauthorized resource extraction and preserving Nigeria’s natural heritage. Furthermore, Audi highlighted the NSCDC’s commendable efforts in combating various forms of economic sabotage and criminal activities. Over the past three years, the Corps has dismantled more than 200 illegal refineries, apprehended over 500 suspected oil thieves, and facilitated the prosecution and conviction of 120 individuals involved in illicit activities. Additionally, the Corps’ Special Intelligence Squad has made significant strides in intercepting illicit goods, including 8 tanker trucks laden with stolen railway sleepers and other valuable equipment valued at over 1.7 billion naira.

While the deployment of Mining Marshals represents a significant step towards tackling illegal mining, the broader implications of illicit resource extraction extend beyond law enforcement concerns. Illegal mining poses multifaceted challenges to Nigeria’s economy, environment, and social fabric, necessitating comprehensive strategies to address its root causes and mitigate its adverse effects. From an economic perspective, illegal mining deprives the government of crucial revenue streams and undermines efforts to promote sustainable development in mineral-rich regions. By evading regulatory oversight and taxation, illicit miners operate with impunity, siphoning off valuable resources that could otherwise contribute to national growth and prosperity.

Inequality and environmental damage caused by the illegal activity.

The lack of transparency and accountability in informal mining operations increases inequalities and perpetuates poverty among local communities dependent on natural resource extraction for their livelihoods. Moreover, the environmental impact of illegal mining is profound and far-reaching. Irresponsible mining practices, such as indiscriminate excavation and the use of hazardous chemicals, result in widespread deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. These ecological disruptions not only degrade fragile ecosystems but also jeopardize the health and well-being of nearby communities reliant on natural resources for sustenance. Contaminated water sources and soil degradation pose long-term health risks, including the spread of waterborne diseases and loss of agricultural productivity, exacerbating food insecurity and perpetuating cycles of poverty.

Furthermore, illegal mining increases social tensions and undermines the rule of law, fuelling conflict and instability in affected regions. Competition for control over lucrative mineral deposits often leads to violent confrontations between rival groups, intensifying existing grievances and impeding efforts to foster peace and reconciliation. Moreover, the proliferation of informal mining operations fosters a culture of impunity and lawlessness, eroding trust in government institutions and undermining efforts to promote inclusive governance and social cohesion. In light of these multifaceted challenges, addressing the root causes of illegal mining requires a holistic approach that integrates law enforcement, regulatory reforms, and sustainable development initiatives.

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Strengthening regulatory framework and enhancing enforcement mechanisms are essential to deter illicit mining activities and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Additionally, promoting alternative livelihoods and empowering local communities to participate in formal mining activities can help alleviate poverty and reduce dependence on illegal resource extraction. Furthermore, fostering collaboration between government agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector is crucial to coordinate efforts, share expertise, and mobilize resources effectively. By harnessing the collective expertise and resources of diverse stakeholders, Nigeria can develop innovative solutions to combat illegal mining, promote responsible resource management, and safeguard the country’s natural heritage for future generations. Through concerted action and sustained commitment, Nigeria can overcome the scourge of illegal mining and unlock the full potential of its mineral wealth to drive inclusive growth, sustainable development, and shared prosperity for all.

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