By Gabriel Ewepu
AS the Federal Government continues to grapple with the challenge of illegal mining, an international humanitarian organisation, Global Rights Nigeria, has alleged that over $500 million (N152.5 billion) worth of gold is illegally shipped out of the country annually.
This was stated by the Executive Director, Global Rights Nigeria, AbiodunBayewu-Teru, at a recent stakeholders’ engagement in the mining sector with the theme: ‘The Development and Implementation of an Effective Fiscal Regime in Nigeria’s Artisanal/Small Scale Mining Sector,’ held recently in Abuja.
Some of the stakeholders include the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative(NEITI), Miners Association of Nigeria(MAN), Women in Mining (WIM),and others.
The conference was targeted at addressing challenges associated with activities of artisanal and small scale mining, especially the negative impact on the economy, the health and environmental impact, and how to formalise these categories of miners.
She said: “In 2010, Zamfara 700 children, 2015 in Shikira in Niger State, 30 children and all victims of artisanal mining lead poisoning related to artisanal gold mining in these states.
“We were confronted with extreme poverty when there was so much wealth leaving our country. $500 million that is the amount of gold shipped out of Nigeria every year, and yet communities like Ankpa, Badega in Zamfara, Shikirain Niger State, Osun State, with the highest number of out of school children, and many in these communities are suffering. Our hatch-tag in Global Rights
is Protecting Mining Host Communities.”
She also stated that sapphire in Taraba State, gemstone in Enugu or in Oyo State, or Ebonyi State are being illegally taken out of Nigeria, adding that the poor state of mining communities in Nigeria compared with other countries mining is being done is disheartening.
“Our constitution says in Section 17 that the natural resources of the mining community will be used for the development of the community and welfare of the citizens, but this has not been the case in Nigeria,” she said
The Global Right boss also cautioned government and operators in the mining industry to avoid the experience in the Niger Delta,
“How can we change this narrative? We should not repeat the mistake in the Niger Delta and on Jos-Plateau, but we build a Nigeria that works for all, especially the vulnerable.”
She decried the state of the host communities which have been endangered with the poisonous gases from mining sites.
“We affirm our support for Global Rights and what they are doing in the sector. What we are asking as NEITI is implementation of development plan for the sector, and that implementation lead to that situation where an organised platform that will lead to a fiscal regime,” he said.
In his remarks the National President of MAN, Sani Shehu, said: “One of the things that should be done include looking at artisanal and small scale miners because they are largely informalised.
“We need to identify and formalise them. Secondly, they need to be organised. Thirdly, after being organised they need to be supported. We all agree that these are people trying to survive because they are not carrier miners and so the method of mining is so detrimental to the environment.”