Calls for closer collaboration with State Governors

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, Friday, vows to prosecute 19 illegal Chinese miners recently arrested by the Nigerian Police Force and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in Osun and Zamfara States according to the Mining Act 2007.

Adegbite made this known while briefing the media over what the Ministry is doing to curb the spate of illegal mining operations in the country, and said the economic sabotage of these illegal nationals in the sector will be addressed legally and diplomatically.

According to him the two states where the Chinese illegal miners were apprehended are States where Gold deposit abounds, because in Osun State a foreign company, a Canadian company is already operating there and as a result of this development in Osun with proven reserve including Zamfara State, these illegal miners are attracted to go there to perpetrate their criminal activities in connivance with Nigerians who invite them for such activities.

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He said: “In Osun, 17 foreigners have been apprehended while in Zamfara just two of them. We are taking them to the Federal High Court, the case is being compiled. The people caught in Zamfara have been transferred to the headquarters as the body empowered to prosecute these people under the Mining Act for what they have done.

“Their files are being compiled and we sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that we can arraign them in court so that it serves as deterrence because in the past it is assumed that we can only bark and not bite.

“We found out that there are a lot of miners especially the foreigners, they are also here illegally, so some of the measures that we would want to take is with Ministry of Interior because what is the status of these people when they come in, some of them have only visiting visa and some of them have visas that have expired.

“The foreign nationals they identified are the Chinese, Burkinabes, Senegalese, and others, but particularly the Chinese.

“How do we make sure that the Minister of Interior keeps track of all these villains who come into Nigeria and they go back as at when due. These are some of the measures to checkmate this.

“Also, go to some international diplomacy, we will be interacting with some Embassies especially the Chinese Embassy because they are the main culprits in this. We have to interact with the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria so that it would not be as if we are unfair to their people we will present the facts to them so that they also keep these people in check.”

Meanwhile, the Minister said registration of legal miners operating in the sector will commence as a way of also sanitizing the industry and getting rid of illegalities.

He also stated that in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dubai authorities in United Arab Emirates, UAE, will ascertain any gold that is coming into Dubai has an export certificate issued by the Nigerian authorities, and possibly the two countries will have to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, because UAE is the first destination of gold.

“We are looking at identifying and registering all the miners in Nigeria both local and foreign ones with their biometrics so that we will identify who and who is operating legally and illegally.

“In conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we may need to work to get the Dubai authorities to ascertain that any gold that is coming into Dubai must have an export certificate from Nigeria, we sign that agreement because the United Arab Emirates is the first destination of the gold.

“We will ensure that the certificate is transmitted electronically such that anywhere you go, the customs check their database to ascertain the gold you are exporting and also send an electronic certificate to the Dubai government to check and ask for an export certificate.”

Meanwhile, the Minister has commended the Governors of Osun and Zamfara States including the Nigerian Police Force and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for the successful arrest of the 19 illegal Chinese miners.”

He also called for further cooperation from State Governors, “So the recent development is a welcome development because the State Governors are the Chief Security Officers of their states and if the governor decides to move the Commissioner of Police has no choice and head of Civil Defence in that state will move.

“That is why you saw in the case of Zafamra, it was the Commission of Police himself and head of the Civil Defence that led the operation that apprehended these people.

“Similarly in Osun, the Commissioner of Police was involved and he gathered his men and they were able to apprehend this large number of people. So what we are doing is because the states have helped us, but this is just the first badge.

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“We welcome further cooperation from State Governors so that in future when we sight or heard of any illegality anywhere, the kind of force that the Governors of Osun and Zamfara put up to avail us, we will be able to catch these people without escape.”

However, he (Adegbite) lamented the quantum of gold that is taken out the country and described as daylight robbery on Nigeria, which he urged the Nigeria Customs Service to boost security checks on the nation’s borders to track down illegal movements of gold and other minerals out of the country.

“Our customs need to check our borders. We need to educate our people now that the oil revenue is down, we need to make sure that our wealth is not taken out, it is economic sabotage to allow these people to pass through the borders.

“These and more we will be implementing gradually as soon as the pandemic is controlled and lockdown is lifted because now when Nigeria oil and gas revenue is dwindling, Nigeria has to focus on agriculture essentially to feed ourselves but the minerals to earn revenue”, he said.

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