Say illegal mining, export of minerals criminal offenses
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Nigeria Geological Survey Agency, NGSA, Mining Cadastre Office, MCO, and other mining professionals, Sunday, demanded the release of 17 illegal Chinese miners by the Osun State Government for prosecution.
Speaking on the alleged refusal by the Osun Government to release the 17 Chinese illegal miners who were arrested by the Nigerian Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Director-General, NGSA, Engr Abdulrazaq Garba, said the incidence of illegal mining especially by foreign nationals has been condoned for too long in the country.
Garba said, “There is the need for the operators both local and foreign to practice by the rule of the game. A lot of revenue has been lost by the government through these illegal activities. Furthermore the level of environmental devastation associated with these activities needs to be looked into. Somebody must be held responsible
READ ALSO: Refusal to release 17 illegal Chinese miners by Osun Govt to FG contravenes Constitution — WIMN
“If these foreign nationals are found to have contravened our laws they must face the full wrath of the law. Don’t forget illegal mining and export of our minerals is an offense so also is the entry and staying in the country illegally. However, no one should be made to suffer unjustly. The laws of the land must be allowed to take its course.
“Procedure to be followed if an illegal miner is arrested by a State Government. Ordinarily, if an illegal miner is arrested by the State Government, such a miner ought to be handed over to the Federal Government for prosecution in line with the Minerals and Mining Act 2007 (Chapter 5 – Offences and Penalties) and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulations (Section 20 – Sanctions)
“Mining can only take place with Federal Permit (obtained after fulfilling the necessary terms). The moment an arrest is made for illegal mining, such offenders must be handed over to the Federal Authority for prosecution. The Federal Mines Officer in a particular state must be invited to investigate the matter. The Federal Mines Officer will then forward his report to the Honourable Minister, who will hand over to the Legal Department of the Ministry for further action where necessary
“Also, the State Government ought to carry the MIREMCO committee in the state along for harmonization of positions between the state and federal authorities. The Federal Government ought to carry the State Government along during the prosecution and ensure the interests of the state authority is protected
“The law stipulates that such offenders shall be prosecuted in a Federal High Court.”
However, the NGSA boss said that “Should the state still refuses to hand them over to the Federal Authority, then the intervention of the Federal Authority – thru the Minister.”
In another reaction, the Director-General, Mining Cadastre Office, MCO, Engr Obadiah Nkom, pointed out that the offense by the illegal Chinese miners contravenes the law and the Mining Act 2007 clearly spells out the role of the Federal Government in handling such illegality.
“The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria has placed Mines and Minerals under the Exclusive legislative list. Also the Nigerian Minerals and Minong Act 2007 and its Regulations clearly spell out its operation. The Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development is to ensure full enforcement.
“As regards the Chinese illegal miners arrested by the Osun State Government, their efforts are well commended. However, it should be noted that the offenders have committed an offense against a federal law that is, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act and the Regulations made pursuant to it.
“Under the said law, it is only the Federal Government or any of its agents including the Ministry of Mines and Steels Development and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation have the authority and power to prosecute such an offender being an offense committed against Federal law.
“That being the case, therefore, the offenders arrested by the Osun State Government should be handed over to the Federal Government Agencies(Police, DSS or EFCC) for further investigation if need be and prosecution by the Attorney General of the Federation with the support and assistance of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
Nkom also added, “Furthermore, it should be noted that the Osun State Government has no power to detain any illegal miner, as no law in Nigeria donates such power to them in Nigeria.
“Flow from the above, the Osun State Government should be advised as a matter of urgency and necessity to handover the alleged offenders to the Federal Government for further investigation where necessary and prosecution as the case may be.
He further clarified on the matter and said that “Moreso, when the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has placed mines and minerals under the Exclusive Legislative List. Please note that if the Osun State Government intends to prosecute the alleged offenders, the Osun State Government must, first of all, obtain a fiat from the Attorney General of the Federation. Until that is done, the Osun State Government should forthwith handover the alleged offenders to the Federal Government for further investigation and prosecution where necessary.”
A mining professional and Acting Director, Mining Inspectorate Department, in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Engr Frank Odoom, who described the refusal to release the illegal Chinese miners as unfortunate and worrisome said that all offenses relating to it are handled by Federal High Courts coupled with the fact that some of the culprits are members of foreign nationals.
Odoom further stated that despite awareness programmes and sensitization activities by the Federal Government on the ills of illegal mining as it relates to the economy and environment such action is still taken at the state level.
“This is even made more worrisome as some of the culprits, in this case, are foreign nationals. This strongly underscores the notion of the involvement of some highly influential members of our society behind this heinous crime.
“Well, my take on this is what is obtainable in all cases of this manner. If an arrest is made in this manner, the culprits are supposed to be handed over to the police for investigation and prosecution. This is even made more imperative as mining is on the exclusive legislative list and all offenses relating to it are handled by Federal High Courts coupled with the fact that some of the culprits are members of foreign nationals.
“Ordinarily, state governments don’t have the right to unilaterally arrest illegal miners, because they don’t license these operators and therefore would not know which is legal or not. Be it as it may, in the event that a suspected illegal miner is arrested, such person should immediately be handed over to the police that will in turn invite the Federal Mines Officer to join in the investigation and prosecution of the culprit”, he stated.
In a similar reaction, the Director, Artisanal and Small Scale Mining Depart of the Ministry, Engr Patrick Ojeka, pointed out that, “ Mining is a constitutional matter and totally in the control of the Federal Government. Therefore every breach in this context is purely an affair of the Federal Government.
“Thus, illegal mining is a punishable offense and a Federal matter and so when illegal miners are caught by the state, the state has the responsibility to notify and hand the offenders over to the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and to the police for investigation and prosecution.”
He also suggested that “Some schools of thought have it that the traditional institutions and some influential personalities are often in connivance with the illegal miners. This makes regulations difficult.
“The Special Mines Surveillance Task Force should have been contacted to carry out this assignment. More enlightenment campaigns and sensitization of the States should be done so as to clear their ignorance.