The Commandant General of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu, chargers personnel of the Corps and various head of units in charge of protecting Mines and Steels to beef up security in various sites in order to stem the tide of illegal Miners by flushing them out of the business.
He noted that, Government through the Minister of Mines and Steel Development Signed an MOU with the Corps as one of the foremost Agency in charge of the protection of Critical Infrastructure and National Assets and the solid mineral sector as one of the Critical Asset is not left out, therefore there is the need to justify the confidence repose on the Corps by Government in protecting the sector especially now that Government is diversifying the economy from the oil sector.
He further stressed that Nigeria is highly endowed with abundant Solid Minerals found all over the Country. According to Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (NIETI), Nigeria has over 44 known minerals assets which include: precious stones, base metals, bulk minerals and rare earth metals. The most promising ones being Gold, Iron ore, Barite, Bitumen, Lead, Zinc, Tin, Coal etc. It is pertinent to note at this period of dwindling economy that solid minerals hold the key to the economic diversification for sustainable development of the Country i.e. reducing dependency on oil and gas, job creation, foreign exchange earnings, domestic production and consumption and tax revenue. Regrettably, not until recent times, Government has been paying lip service to its development or treating it as a theoretical exercise with no enthusiasm, the result of which is this pathetic state of mineral development in the Country.
In the words of the Commandant General of NSCDC, Abdullahi Gana Mohammadu, the major players in the industry are informal miners which are artisan miners, medium scale operators and illegal miners which constitute the highest percentage. He added that most of the minerals mined in Nigeria are exported by both the informal players and the few formal ones. He however worried about the activities of illegal miners in Mining Industry which has become a menace with its attendant loss of revenue from taxes, loss of royalties, uncontrollable risks that the citizens are exposed to as a result of environmental degradation among others. He supported his claims with the report by one of the electronic media in the Country which informed that over 300 mining pits were dug in Ijesa Community in Osun State and other equally dangerous ones in Kogi State for the purpose of mining gold and limestone respectively by artisanal miners. These he said were just a few out of hundreds of such across the Country.
He however opined that in order to check the above challenges posed by illegal miners, it is necessary to establish genuine and functional security networks. In realization of this, he said NSCDC whose core mandate it is to Protect Critical National Assets and Infrastructure as provided for by the NSCDC (Amended) ACT 2007, and being the foremost security agency in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, has taken the bull by the horn in formally establishing a department called Mines and Steel Department, headed by Commandant Chike A. Ikpeamonwu fsi since February 2016. Of recent, during their visit to the Commandant General, stakeholders like Miners’ Association of Nigeria has indicated interest to collaborate with NSCDC to protect their investments. This Department was charged with the responsibility of actualizing the above stated mandate in solid minerals sector. The Commandant General in his wisdom made it known that he immediately directed the formation of a formidable structure that ensured the deployment of officers to all states of the Federation for a sustainable surveillance over these Critical National Assets- solid minerals. He equally directed all Commands of the Corps to embark on result oriented collaboration, sensitization economic development and for each person or group of persons to be awaken to his/her responsibility. He pointed out some of the accomplishment of the Corps’ in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development which include: enforcement of sealing order, halting of illegal mining activities on sites arrest of illegal miners etc. it is interesting to know that the first conviction of illegal miners in mining industry in Nigeria was secured by NSCDC in June 2017. Over one hundred illegal miners suspects were arrested at different locations across the Country while several others were handed over to the Corps by the Nigeria Army. Out of these numbers, twenty (20) have been successfully convicted with various jail terms.
He regretted that efforts of the Corps at effectively tackling this menace are repeatedly hindered by un-complementing attitudes of some stakeholders whose actions and inactions have greatly supported the thriving of illegal miners’ activities against Government determination to eradicate it.
He concluded by saying in order to decimate the activities of illegal miners, there is urgent need for Government to; provide for local artisans and small scale miners fabricated equipment for local processing of their raw materials. This he said will discourage the act of exporting them, and will also assist them in competing with their foreign counterparts; arrest and prosecute illegal miners who are currently excluded from sanction in the Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act 2007 in the courts for their illicit acts as began by NSCDC who combined the NSCDC (amended) 2007 acts and the miscellaneous offence acts to achieve prosecution of illegal mining offenders.
According to him, if effective and sustained funding with modern ICT, and the cooperation of other agencies concern are put in place, complete eradication of illegal mining can be achieved.
Ikpeamonwu Chike A. fsi
Commandant, Mines and Steel Department