Assures of remaining law abiding, support FG on fight against criminality

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

Miners under the auspices of Miners Association of Nigeria, MAN, Wednesday, cried out over neglect, maltreatment and accusation of fueling insecurity, hence ban on mining activities in some States in the country.

This was stated by the Ag National President, MAN, Musa Muhammad, along with the National Secretary, ‘Dele Ayanleke, and National Publicity Secretary, Tope Adebanjo, in a press statement with subject ‘Nigeria Mining Industry and Its Multi-faceted Challenges’ signed by the trio and read out during a press conference held in Abuja, pointed that the miners are not given the desired and expected attention by the government despite the Buhari-led administration declared that the nation’s mining sector would be a platform and as well an alternative to diversify the economy from oil and gas sector.

The association also expressed displeasure at the way and manner some government agencies have made it so unbearable with difficult conditions to access funds meant for miners and development of the solid minerals sector.

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On the issue of insecurity allegedly traceable to the mining sector, the association dismissed it by making it known that In spite of the heavy dependent on the mining revenue by the nation before discovery of oil and gas, the mass of people involved in mining, history does not have any record of insecurity associated with mining.

They said, “In about a couple of days ago, the Nigeria mining industry, particularly the solid minerals sector, came on trial when the news space was agog with the proposed ban on mining activities in Nigeria by the Federal Government.

“This proposal was among the measures being considered by the National Security Council to checkmate the rising insecurity in the country.

“In view of an earlier Press Release by this Association, which was published in some print and online media, and the enormity of public debates generated by the proposal, this address will dwell less on the proposed ban, but may educate the public on the purposed relationship between mining and insecurity along with some of the multi-faceted challenges confronting the solid minerals sector.

“While this Association consents to the notion and reality of the embarrassing trend of the national insecurity and the dire need to combat it headlong, especially as the sector that feels the heat of insecurity more than any other sectors, it is important for the public to know that mining is neither a precursor to national insecurity nor its sustainer.

“The mining industry today became associated with insecurity because of some collateral factors which shall be briefly enumerated below: Most mining sites are located far away into the wilderness without good road networks and other social amenities, thereby making them safe havens for banditry and all other forms of criminalities.

“The banning of mining activities in Zamfara and Katsina states has only succeeded in getting the legitimate operators out of their concessions and providing hideouts for these criminals.

“The indiscriminate entry of foreign nationals, especially those of Asian and European extractions, who are the major targets of kidnappers.

“Lack of monitoring and digitized surveillance capacity of the security agencies.”

However, the association acknowledged the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, and its agencies in deploying the available resources to carry out some regulatory activities including; Formalization of the Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners, Digitalization of Mineral Title Administration; Data Generation and Archiving through the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project (NIMEP); Remote Sensing and Data Capturing initiative, construction of cluster centers in the six geopolitical zones; and others.

The miners said even with that there is “Lack of the required growth rate in the sector and the presence of all forms of illegality and criminality can be traced to this challenge of regulatory enforcement capacity and lack of extension service workers as provided in section 91 of the NMMA 2007.

“Enforcement capabilities could be well enhanced with collaborative efforts between Miners Association of Nigeria and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. For Miners Association possesses well structured Man power all over the Federation that can be effectively fill the Man Power gap on behalf of the Ministry”, it pointed.

On the issue of funding interventions, the association expressed sadness over treatment by delegated agencies, describing it as unfair to the solid minerals sector, in comparison to the maximum attention accorded the agricultural sector.

“The Federal Government through the CBN, NEXIM bank, BOI and other financial institutions in Nigeria have announced one intervention or the other for the Nigerian mining sector in the last decade without trace of implementation.

“Worthy of mention are the following:N5 billion BOI intervention fund for ASM; N6 billion intervention fund–post Covid-19; and N200million small scale miners fund.

“The concerns of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development on repayments of loans accessed by miners are valid.

“However, the best approach would be to amend the stringent conditions applied to these interventions so that the critical mass of small scale mining companies can benefit from them.

“The continued inaccessibility of these interventions by small scale miners is evidence of failure of the intervention and it is worthy of note that at least 90 per cent of the activities in the Nigerian mining industry is by artisanal and small scale miners”, it lamented.

The association pointing at the CBN Anchor Borrowers Scheme, said the scheme waived landed property as collateral requirement and other stringent conditions, and required a minimum equity contribution of five per cent by farmers, whereas all the interventions for the mining sector had very stringent unachievable collateral requirements by the participating financial institutions.

“The same collateral requirements applied to the Anchor Borrowers Programme should apply to the small-scale mining sector”, it added.

The association while indicating sectors the CBN has injected huge interventions including the health, agric, manufacturing, and others asserted that, “The clear relegation of the mining sector to the background which might be unintentional due to lack of knowledge of the immense contributions to the non-oil exports receivables, which active small-scale mining operators across Nigeria bring to the national GDP growth seen in the non-oil exports statistics.

“The consequences of this neglect of the mining sector are, but not limited to, the following: scarcity of foreign exchange due to low non-oil export volumes from the solid minerals sector, continuous damage to the Naira, galloping unemployment statistics, and insecurity across the rural areas of Nigeria.”

On foreign ownership of mining assets and indiscriminate entry of foreign nationals into mining locations, and as such they become prey for kidnappers.

“The Association is not unaware of the various statutes regulating the incorporation of companies in the country, neither are we ignorant of the possibility of existing bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements that may be binding on Nigeria, but the policy of 100 per cent ownership of mining assets by foreign nationals which gives them indiscriminate access to mining locations across the county should be reviewed in the interest of national security.

“The presence of these foreigners, especially those of the Asian and European extractions is a major attraction for kidnappers into the mining sites.”

Meanwhile, the association raised issue of multiple taxation on its operations.

“Mining operations, being an activity that impacts on the land surface, its control has been subjected to conflict between the Federal and State Government, extending to Local Governments and Communities.

“The conflict has not been assuaged by the establishment of Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committees (MIREMCOs) in each state, Community Development Agreement (CDA) and 13 per cent derivation to land owners and States respectively as provided in the NMMA 2007.

“This legal impasse has exposed the solid minerals sectors to all forms of control, levies and taxes that have become burdensome to the economy of the operators and Government revenue expectations”, it said.

However, the association assured Government that, “Miners Association of Nigeria, as a responsible body of patriotic individuals and corporate citizens, wishes to assure the Government and people of Nigeria, that we shall continue to carry out our mining operations responsibly in accordance to global best mining practices and to mobilize and educate our members to support all government initiatives at combating the national insecurity that has assumed the status of an hydra-headed monster.

“We shall undertake to sensitize our members on the need to engage and fund vigilante groups in their various mining clusters in conjunction with the Government security agencies in their respective localities. This is already being practiced in some mining clusters.

“We also renew our pledge to the regulatory bodies and relevant stakeholders that we shall continue to enrich conversations that will propel the sector on the Road of mining prosperity, with our knowledge, expertise and experience.”

And as part of MAN’s prayers on the challenges its members are facing appealed to Government that through the funding agencies, should engage Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN) to review the conditions to access the various intervention facilities meant for the sector by the intended small-scale operators or unlock them to facilitate the equipment leasing gaps in the identified mining clusters as a backward integration strategy for the established mining cluster buying centers; That more digitized surveillance system for advance warnings, via continuous monitoring, be procured with adequate administrative and security personnel to enforce compliance with various regulatory policies and security protocols; That the ban on mining activities in Zamfara, Katsina and Niger States be reversed so that licensed mine owners will relocate to their mines and team with our security agencies to combat the bandits feasting on their legitimate concessions.

That Government should accord the solid minerals sector similar attention and funding models as applied to Agricultural sector; That the construction works on the Mineral buying clusters be expedited to give effect to the recent policy on value addition to our minerals before export; That the Federal Government, as a matter of national urgency, convoke a high powered conference, under the auspices of the Raw Materials Development and Research Council, to deliberate and recommend the quickest means to localize industrial revolution that will fast track economic recovery;

That the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development should catalyze the process of overhauling the extant legal and regulatory frameworks with the view to removing the multiplication of control and taxation by all tiers of Government, inhibiting the growth and development of the sector.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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