ON April 7, 2019, the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, announced the Federal Government’s decision to ban all mining activities in the severely security-challenged Zamfara State. This was probably a response to a spate of protests by some indigenes of the state at Abuja.
According to the IGP, the Federal Government took the decision because it believed that the activities of miners in the state attracted the “bandits” who have been killing innocent people and pillaging communities in spite of several efforts by security forces.
Zamfara is a classic example of the well-formed notion that the presence of precious minerals is a major source of misery in Third World countries.
Rich deposits of lead and gold which attract both licenced and illegal miners have brought death and diseases to the state.
Lead poisoning resulted in the death of 163 people (111 of them being children) in 2010 alone.
In the past couple of years, “bandits” who were once called “cattle rustlers” have claimed hundreds of lives. With the recent disclosure by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Bawa Bwari, that 18 tonnes of gold valued at N353 billion (over one billion dollars) were smuggled out of Nigeria between 2016 and 2018, it is easy to understand why violent criminals have turned the state into a killing field.
Now that the mining activities have been put on hold, the question is: what next? How long is this freeze going to last? With over 300 mining cooperatives and thousands of their artisan labour force out of work, to prolong the ban with no credible alternatives for those legitimately involved will clearly worsen the suffering of the people.
The Federal Government’s response smacks of the typical fire brigade approach due to the pressure by protesters.
We are encouraged by Minister Bwari’s pledge that the country’s gold value chain is being reorganised to ensure we begin to reap the benefits which we had been denied as a result of poor leadership and governance attitude.
According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, will begin to play the roles of its peers around the world by buying up gold mined in Nigeria and stocking up our gold reserve to strengthen our economy.
Why such measure was neglected in the past while highly connected rogues, traditional rulers, former military and security officers used illegal fronts to exploit and smuggle out our gold must be investigated.
Unless the Federal Government takes firm and immediate measures to regulate and secure the mining sector, the insecurity linked to mining in other African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, could be with us for the foreseeable future.