The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has urged for the arrest and prosecution of foreigners or anyone engaged in the illegal mining of the country’s mineral resources.
Mr Lawan made the call on Wednesday in his remarks after the consideration of a motion on “The need to check illegal mining activities in the country.”
The motion sponsored by Ya’u Sahabi Alhaji (PDP, Zamfara North) and 32 other senators, sought for the revamping of the country’s mining sector.
PREMIUM TIMES has exclusively reported how miners in Kankara, Katsina State operate with crude implements and little or no regulation from the federal government which reserves mining on its exclusive list.
Based on the provision of Section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the ownership and control of all minerals in Nigeria is vested in the federal government, which is mandated to manage such natural resources in a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
Leading the debate, Mr Sahabi said illegal mining sites not only breed criminality but also exacerbates into full scale terrorism and insurgency as witnessed in these states.
He cited Zamfara State, where the state of insecurity can be traced to illegal mining sites.
He also complained that the solid mineral sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country has dwindled overtime due to illegal mining.
In his contribution, a former Deputy Senator, Ike Ekweremadu, said the best way to stop illegal mining in the country was to remove Item 39 from the schedule of the Constitution which gives control of solid minerals to the federal government.
He added that some states were involved in illegal mining, advising that 30 per cent derivation should be given to states with high deposits of mineral resources like Zamfara State.
In his remark, Mr Lawan assured that the ninth Senate will look into the solid minerals sector ‘seriously’.
He charged the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Steel Development and Metallurgy to call for a public hearing on the issue.
“We know we have policies on solid minerals as well as legislation. The federal government gave N30 billion to the ministry just to revamp the sector in the last four years but I think as a parliament, we should be able to contribute very meaningfully to ensuring that this sector, which is so important to us, given the kind of situation the oil industry is going through, is given attention,” he said.
The lawmaker called for proper revamping and protection of the mining sector, adding that illegal mining is unacceptable.
“We have to work to ensure that this particular sector is properly revamped and protected. The situation of illegal mining is unacceptable. We can’t tolerate it and allow that to happen.
“If there are any foreigners coming in their helicopters and on their feet to come and mine our resources without the necessary documentation, I think it is for us to ensure that our security agencies arrest them and prosecute them.
“I believe that this Assembly, particularly this Senate, must be at the vanguard of reviewing the situation in the mining sector and what we need to do if there are gaps in terms of legislation,” he said.
The Senate, thereafter, urged the executive arm of government to develop a legal framework to tackle illegal and artisanal mining in the country.
The red chamber also urged the federal government to further clean up areas affected by lead poisoning in Zamfara State as well as rehabilitate those affected and equally deal with environmental degradation in the state.