The Committee on Devolution of Power agrees to involve states in mining activities.
The co-chairman of the National Conference Committee on Devolution of Power, Victor Attah, on Wednesday gave an insight on how the Northern and Southern delegates in the Committee resolved the standoff over the control of mines and minerals resources in the country.
The Committee co-chaired by Mr. Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom state, and a former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, had disagreed over the issue leading to postponement of discussions on the issue several times.
The Committee members, however, resolved the issue on Wednesday after their meeting held behind closed-doors.
Control of mineral resources is listed as Item 39 in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution under the heading “Mines and Mineral, including oil fields, geological surveys and natural gas.”
Briefing journalists after the committee’s sitting, Mr. Attah said while some delegates wanted the resources to belong to the areas they were found and argued that it should be removed from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List, others insisted that the Item should not be tampered with.
Mr. Attah explained that reaching the decision was tough because several members of the committee complained of the need to diversify the economy.
“It was very difficult one to resolve but we finally resolved that it must remain in the Exclusive List,” he said.
“But because there were complaints, several complaints of the need to diversify the economy, there was a decision that we must find a way of getting states somehow involved in the processes of exploitation of mineral resources. So we resolved that while the Item remains in the Exclusive List, we will redefine what is there.
“We resolved that all minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas remain in the Exclusive List provided that (a) “the Government of States where the mining activities take place shall be involved in matters relating there to,” and “The government of the Federation shall make special grants to develop mines and minerals in states where such resources are undeveloped.”
The co-chairman said the resolution had provided what was needed to move the country forward.
He explained that the resolution would also give states the leverage to get involved in decisions on mining and exploration activities in their states.
Mr. Attah said that the Committee believed that gas flaring would have ceased if states were involved in the matter and insisted that the resolutions were aimed at a better Nigeria.
He said that it was also the position of the committee that nobody had faulted Section 44 (3) of the Constitution, which states that all minerals under above, upon wherever it is found belong to the Federal Government.
He, however, said that the Committee’s decisions were still subject to the approval of the National Conference in plenary.
A member of the Committee from Delta State, Godini Darah, told journalists that the “patriotic proposals” for resolving the matter finally won the acceptance of all delegates in our committee.
“We are 30 in the committee and there were no dissenting voices. In fact as soon as the decision was reached, we applauded ourselves. We clapped because there has been a logjam on the matter and it was understandable.
“Item 39 on the Exclusive Legislative List which illegally, unjustly and inequitably confined the power to mine minerals, mineral oil, natural gas, bitumen, gold, diamond, uranium, tantalum, etc (was resolved).
“Only the federal government was given authority to mine them. What has happened? The Federal Government receives cheap money from oil and gas developed by foreigners not Nigerians. The Federal government has 60 per cent equity in those companies and so everyday money is flowing in dollars. Therefore they have ignored the development of the other essential minerals on the excuse that they have no money to do it.”
Mr. Darah, a professor, further explained, “What we did now is that Item 39 remains a federal legislative monopoly. It is the federal government that will make laws and grant license if you want to mine gold or bitumen in any part of the country.
“So, by this action we have taken today, we have opened Nigeria to a new industrial revolution and civilisation. We have added a clause that federal government will grant license to anybody who wants to exploit minerals.
“If I want to raise a company to explore minerals in Nasarawa State, the federal government will grant me the license. But the state government shall have power to participate in the exploitation and development of the minerals found in its own area.
“The second addition is that the government of the federation of Nigeria shall set aside a special fund like the Sovereign Wealth Fund that will be used to deliberately develop these minerals that have been abandoned for so long. In other words, there will be no more excuse of saying there is no money to mine the gold.
“The federal government has for a long time locked up its own wealth just because it did not want to use the oil money to develop other sources of wealth. This committee has broken that jinx today by empowering the states to be involved in exploration. If a state does not have the resources, it can get foreign investors from Australia,
South Africa or China to mine the minerals.”
Also speaking, a former Deputy Senate President from Plateau State, Ibrahim Mantu, said “We came back this morning to look at the issues once and for all with the national interest in mind. We have to thank God for what he has done. Everybody came back this morning to contribute in a patriotic manner.
“The good news is that we have been able to cross the hurdle that looked impossible in the last few days. We have now been able to reach a compromise as to where mineral resources should be whether they should be under the Exclusive or Concurrent Legislative List.
“We have unanimously agreed that mineral resources including oil, coal, bitumen or gold should remain on the Exclusive Legislative List which means that the federal government will take full control of the management of the resources. But we also said that we need to make provision for the exploitation of all the natural endowments in this country.
Mr. Mantu, a North Central delegate, noted that every state in this country was blessed with one natural resource or the other, stressing, “We have neglected the development of these the resources because of oil and the mentality of food is ready.
“The Federal Government has neglected the development of all the solid minerals like bitumen which are in abundance in some parts of the country. We have now put a proviso in our own recommendation to the effect that the state should be involved in the development, extraction or exploitation of these minerals because at present, the states where these minerals come from are not having any say at all in exploitation of these minerals found in their states.”
An elder statesman from the South West, Ayo Adebanjo said, “We have resolved that states should be involved in the development of the minerals in their states. It is no longer a question of the federal government doing it all alone. The issue of minerals is still on the Exclusive List but the federal government will not do it without
involving the states where these minerals are domiciled.”
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