The Lagos State governor and his Ogun State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dapo Abiodun, have called for the decentralisation of ownership and control of solid minerals, insisting that the current management structure of the sector is hampering development.
The duo spoke at the first domestic investment and exhibition conference which was held in Lagos recently.
Themed “Mobilising Domestic Mining Investment for Sustainable Economic Growth,” the event according to the organisers, was aimed at mobilising in-country mining investments and potential to sustain the national economy.
But the minister of mines and steel development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has described as unfair the demand by the two governors, saying the goalpost cannot be shifted in the middle of the game.
He said both Ogun and Lagos States have also been part of the beneficiaries of the oil exploration in the oil-producing states, which he noted is also managed in the same manner by the federal government.
Mr Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the commissioner for energy and mineral resources, Lere Odusote, said the review of policies in the solid minerals sector had become necessary towards allowing gainful exploration of the natural resources for the economic growth of the country.
The governor said some restrictions from the federal government over the years have made it difficult to fully harness the natural endowments, noting that the centralisation of regulatory functions portends huge setbacks for the development of the sector.
He said: “For effective growth of the solid minerals sector, it is important for federal government to consider decentralizing these regulatory roles to allow state governments to utilize the advantages of more adequate man-power, and closer proximity to the mining sites, to enhance the effectiveness of monitoring offices, reduce revenue leakage, and improve environmental sustainability.”
Mr Sanwo-Olu highlighted various gaps existing in the sector which he noted include the omission of parts of the state in the existing aeromagnetic maps, saying it is making the state to be disadvantaged in relation to mineral discovery.
“This development however calls for decentralisation of ownership and control of the solid minerals development sector to assist Lagos State to take decisions in committing funds to research, that will aid the determination of the commercial viability of bitumen and other industrial minerals situated within the state,” the governor added.
According to Mr Sanwo-Olu, most of the geochemical exploratory research works from Nigeria are usually sent abroad for laboratory analysis, noting that such practice cannot continue if Nigeria desires to fully maximise the growth in the mining sector.
“The fact remains that Nigeria requires a geochemical laboratory that can accurately analyse minerals and rock samples to the very minute details. Closely related to this also, is the need for data collection by each state. This is imperative to enable states to take advantage of potential resources within their boundaries and beyond”, the governor said.
The governor said participants at a recent hearing held in the state on the review of the revenue sharing formula by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) had made a case for the devolvement of economic and political powers from the federal government to the lower levels of government in line with the ideals of true federalism.
He said: “It is, therefore, apposite to make the same call for the overall development of the mineral resources sector, especially in the areas of policy development, monitoring, and enforcement.
“I must share here that beyond the review of the allocation sharing formula, states across the country cannot have adequate resources that will cater for their infrastructure and other needs if adequate attention is not paid to expand what comes into the central pocket in terms of revenue. And the way to achieve this is to discover several minerals across the country for economic growth and development.”
Ogun governor laments
In his goodwill speech at the event, Mr Abiodun expressed eagerness to receiving the recommendations of the forum especially on how they would help in solving issues of the roles of the host states in mineral licensing approval for exploitation, resolution on sharing formula revenue accrued from investments from the solid minerals sector, and how to ensure proper monitoring activities of the solid minerals prospectors especially as it concerns environmental impact amongst others.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, an engineer, said: “We have genuine reasons to be concerned. Currently, the availability of limestone has attracted billions of naira investment into our state through the likes of Dangote, Lafarge, among other cement producers, and consequently positioning Ogun State as the cement capital of Nigeria.
“But despite the abundance of these resources, Ogun State has little to show for it because approval and licensing of solid minerals prospecting is on the exclusive list. However, we are unfortunately left with dealing with the resultant environmental impacts and degradation, contamination and the effects of heavy trucks on our roads, lack of provision of social amenities for the inflow and great population around mining areas. With these, the people of Ogun State now look forward to the outcome of this conference.”
In his response to the governor’s positions, the minister of mines and steel development said the issue of control of natural resources is a sensitive matter.
Mr Adegbite said: “If we say everybody should go back to their tent, control the minerals in your state, a lot of states in Nigeria will collapse. Because then, we will not have anything to share from the federal government anymore. Everybody will have to depend on what they have.
“Fortunately, Lagos state will survive because it gets a lot of internally generated revenues but a lot of states will not survive. And even with all the minerals that we have, there is a gestation period for you to develop them. Also, we must remember we all shared and participated in other people’s minerals. Oil and gas are minerals too; it may be liquid but it is mineral.
“You could not have eaten somebody’s lunch, when it’s now your own meal, you want to put it under the table, that’s not fair. So in a federation, we must allow the federal government to keep managing the minerals because the federal government has always managed the resources from oil and gas, and Lagos State benefited from that and other states as well.”
Mr Adegbite explained that the states can participate in mining but as corporate entities, saying such can be achieved by incorporating a company to mine on their behalf.
He noted that the establishment of the Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) is to ensure the participation of states.
“That is why we particularly allow the governors to choose the chairman of MIREMCO in every state. This is one of the ways the federal government is making concessions to the states, so that they can participate adequately in mining,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, in his keynote address, Ayo Teriba, chief executive officer of the Economic Associates, said it’s important to resolve the dispute among the three tiers of government on resource ownership before considering bringing in investors.
“We need to set our house in order first before inviting investors. Unless we act in concert, we will never get it done. It’s not a question of whether it’s either state or federal, it’s always a multi-relics problem that must be resolved cooperatively and not competitively. And unless we resolve it, we are not going to be liquid as a nation, and if we are not liquid, we cannot be stable and grow,” Mr Teriba said.
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