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Inadequacy in preempting illegal mining

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By Timothy Akintola

Nigeria’s vast size responsible for inability to halt illegal mining operations.

Recent intensification of Illegal Mining activities have become a major challenge affecting Nigeria’s Mining industry. This menace has Increasingly become a means of employment in numerous communities in Nigeria. Importantly, these activities have continually attracted bandits and criminal individuals, raising concerns from both citizens and the government. Recall that in 2019, the Federal Government had to ban Mining activities in Zamfara state, as a result of the bedeviled invasion of bandits that led to numerous cases of deaths and kidnappings in the state. In light of the Federal Government’s ban on unlicensed Mining, miners in Edo state have hugely criticized this decision, demanding the government to overhaul its Security Architecture and rescind this decision.

On this prevailing menace, Lekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development recently disclosed that it was quite impossible for the Federal Government to out rightly halt the activities of illegal miners in the country as a result of Nigeria’s vast size. The minister stated that the Federal Government could not presently pre-empt the operations of Illegal Mining across the country, but stressed that those found would be severely punished in accordance to the law. He also said that the government was pumping efforts into organizing these illegal miners into cooperatives, to ensure immense monitoring. He pointed that numerous foreign nationals were caught in the act and punished in accordance to the law.

Satellite monitoring system implemented to monitor illegal activities.

Adegbite, during an interview, pointed that Nigeria’s vastness and the country’s inadequate resources for preventing these Illegal Mining operations are major causes for the prevalence of the menace. He however noted that the reactions to reports of Illegal Mining have been very effective, due to the monitoring schemes through locals, states and help of Security agencies like Customs and immigration officials to tighten the noose. He stated that the government was making efforts to imminently prevent these operations but wherever illegal activities were reported, the ministry aids the Security agencies in apprehending the criminals.

He further disclosed that the ministry now possessed a satellite monitoring system, used to aid the watching of illegal activities across the country. He also stated that government decided against making artisanal Mining illegal as most involved use the proceeds to care for their families. The minister asserted that there were over 4000 cooperatives and as such, members could borrow to about N100 million at five percent interest over a stretch of 20 years from the Bank of Industry. He added that Nigeria was a major Investment location for stakeholders due to the lower cost of operation here as compared to other mature jurisdictions.

New Ajaokuta arrangement, on the basis of equity stakes.

On Ajaokuta Steel, the minister again noted that present arrangements were evidently different from the concessions implemented in the past, where people just got resources for free. He noted that the new arrangement would be on the basis of equity stakes and promised that the process would be completed by March. He said that the transaction advisor in this case was guiding the Federal Government on the necessary steps to take. He also said that there were investors ready to come into Ajaokuta with their equity.

Adegbite noted that this time, the ministry would be guided by experts, noting that the inherent value of Ajaokuta would not be enjoyed for free anymore. He commended President Mohammadu Buhari for his efforts as the first president in Nigeria’s history to dedicate funds to Mining in the country. He stated that over the years, Nigeria had been making claims about the need to diversify and due to the nature of the industry as a risky one, immense budget had not been invested in the sector until President Buhari’s administration. He stated that there was always a new to de-risk the sector.

Federal government working with owners of Burutu port in Delta State.

The Minister disclosed that the government was working with the owners of Burutu port in Delta State, to ensure that the port is designated as the Mineral port of the country. Talking about the funds generated by the Mining industry, Adegbite noted that the contribution of the Mining sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product had taken a giant leap, when compared to its contribution 10 years ago and that in itself was an effort deserving of immense appraisal.

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