Nigeria’s Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, said Tuesday that the government cannot halt the activities of illegal miners in the country due to Nigeria’s vast size.
Mr Adegbite disclosed this while speaking on Arise TV Morning Show on Tuesday.
He explained that the nation cannot preempt illegal mining operators but wherever they are found, they will be dealt with according to the law.
“As for illegal mining, that’s a problem because Nigeria is a very vast country. I must admit to you that we do not have the resources to preempt all these illegal activities because Nigeria is vast.
“But we react to it very well, because we have been monitoring the locals, through the states and all that and the security guys are aiding us,” Mr Adegbite said.
“We’ve arrested a lot of these nationals that you mentioned, and we have prosecuted them. We are working with agencies like customs, like immigration. We’re working with them to tighten the noose.”
The minister urged Nigerians to support the government in containing the activities of illegal miners.
“Wherever we are alerted to the activities, we are left with the responsibility and we have got support from security services.
“I sincerely admit that we have some illegality all over the place because Nigeria is a vast place and I cannot come out and tell you that yes, we have the resources to preempt this because we can’t be everywhere at the same time. No, it’s not possible,” he said.
Mr Adegbite noted that in the ministry, there is a satellite monitoring system from which illegal activities are closely watched.
According to him, artisan mining is the major activity in Nigeria but the nation needs to improve in other areas.
“Yes, they have fulfilled their purpose, that is why the government has not made it illegal. We don’t want to dislodge these people and put them out of work and put the families in a problem,” he said.
The minister explained that Nigeria will not begin to realise the potential of the sector until big players invest in it, noting that this could be realised if the sector is de-risked with intervention efforts that would encourage investment.
He added that with data on where each mineral could be found in the country, investors can easily come in and allow the sector to grow and contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product.
“There is the need to invest…in exploration and acquiring data. This is what President Muhammadu Buhari did, especially in 2017.
“This data is what is attracting people to the sector now. Additionally, when we came in, I noticed that we were going the petroleum route again, where we will export crude oil and bring in the refined product.
“So we started a process to engage stakeholders and it is over two years but today, it is an official policy of the government and it was approved by the Federal Executive Council where without beneficiation, you can’t export raw ore from Nigeria anymore,” he said.
Speaking on the Ajaokuta Steel Company, Mr Adegbite noted that the current arrangement is markedly different from the concession done in the past.
According to him, the new deal will be based on equity stakes, with the process expected to be completed sometime in March this year.
“The transaction advisor in this case is guiding the federal government on the proper thing to do. We have people who are going to come into Ajaokuta with their equity.
“We don’t want a free ride anymore. That’s one of the lessons learnt from the past. We’ve learnt a lot of lessons because we’ve had two sessions of concessions of Ajaokuta that failed.
“This time around, we are being guided by experts, and because of the value inherent in Ajaokuta, they appreciate it but we’re saying this time there is no free lunch,” he said.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999