The Federal Government has commended the Governors of Osun and Zamfara States, for steps taken to arrest the foreign nationals and their Nigerian collaborators, recently engaged in illegal mining activities in the two States.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite, who stated this at a Press Conference on Friday, May 8, 2020 on recent developments in the sector, also disclosed that discussion was on with the two States for the Ministry to take over the persecution of the arrested culprits, including the 17 Chinese nabbed in Osun and 2 in Zamfara, alongside their collaborators.
The Minister explained that this was imperative as the States may persecute these culprits under such laws as environmental degradation as against the real crime, which is illegal mining.
“We have written congratulatory letters to the two State Governors of Zamfara and Osun, thanking them for this. But we asked them to allow us as a body empowered by Mining Act to persecute these people. This is because the states may persecute them with such laws as environmental degradation but the real crime is illegal mining which only the Federal Government can persecute at the Federal High Court.”
Adegbite noted that there has never been arrest and prosecution of those who engage in illegal mining before now, saying that the successful persecution and conviction of these culprits would serve as deterrent to those with similar minds, and will boost the on-going reforms in the sector.
He added that in order to expedite prosecution of illegal mining cases, discussion was held with the Chief Justice of Nigeria who had advised State Chief Judges to designate special court in the state for trial of illegal mining related offences.
Speaking further, the Minister said besides working closely with State Governments to muster required security might as seen in the case of Osun and Zamfara, to checkmate illegal mining in the states, the Ministry was working with Ministry of Interior to ensure that those foreigners who have no requisite papers to do business in the country are not allowed in.
He explained that those foreigners that engaged in the illegal mining, majority of whom are Chinese, have been found to be living in the county illegally. He noted that these, especially the Chinese, hide under the cover of the artisanal miners, with the backing of some influential Nigerians, to carry out their illegal mining activities.
“We are working with Ministry of Interior to monitor these foreigners, and also would meet with the Chinese Embassy to discuss the issue, putting the facts before them so as not to look as if the Chinese are our target,” he said.
Also he said his Ministry is collaborating with Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convince countries, particularly, the United Arab Emirates (where most of the smuggled gold from Nigeria are taken to) to ensure that any gold that is coming from Nigeria is certified.
“We want to convince them to begin to ask for Export Certificate, which they are not doing now. If they notice that there is no certificate of any gold from Nigeria, such would be confiscated and return to Nigeria. We also work on arrangement that would be of benefit to both countries,” he said.
Other measures, he said are the profiling and registration of all miners in the country, local or foreign; networking with neighbouring countries on ways of curbing illegal mining as well as educating Custom and Immigration Services to see illegal export of our minerals as economic sabotage which they must join hand to fight.
For: Director (Press)