Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on Monday urged the federal government to allow states to exploit their respective minerals and pay royalty to the central government.
Mr Wike made the call when Uchechukwu Ogah, the minister of state for Mines and Steel Development, paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor said the call became pertinent because the federal government which unilaterally controls the country’s rich mineral endowment has “failed to translate the mineral wealth into overall economic development”.
He said for the country to benefit from its vast mineral endowment, the federal government should concentrate on the formulation of policies that will facilitate an improvement in the governance of the mining sector to improve social welfare.
“The federal government is carrying so much load that they are not supposed to carry, allow states to develop these minerals and pay royalty to the federal government, that is the way it’s supposed to be,” Mr Wike said.
He urged the minister to push for reforms that will enable states and local governments to take charge of the mining of solid minerals in their domains and then pay tax to the federal government.
“It is very important for people to know that part of the problem in this country is that everybody is depending on oil, when we are also supposed to look at other minerals.
“Minerals play a great role in terms of raising revenue for any country, so our overemphasis on oil has reduced our impact on other minerals.
“If the country fully harnesses the gold deposit in Zamfara as well as other minerals in other states of the federation, the country will make a lot of revenue from these minerals that can accelerate development.”
The failed Ajaokuta Steel Company project would have helped to create thousands of jobs and also lift Nigeria to become a major player in the global steel industry, but for the failure on the part of the federal government, the governor said.
The Rivers State Government, he said, was prepared to collaborate with the federal government to develop the mineral sector of the country.
Mr Wike advised the federal government to stop “playing politics with issues of economic development” and strive to entrench the ideals of good governance in the country.
Responding, the minister told the governor he is in the state to share with him the vision and policy focus of the federal government for the development of the nation’s solid mineral resources.
Mr Ogah stated that his visit is to solicit for the support and partnership of the state government in ensuring the orderly and efficient exploitation of huge deposits of silica sand, glass sand and clay which are in the state for construction purposes and glass manufacturing.
“In addition, permit me to also remind you of the abundant sea salt yet to be exploited in Rivers as a state bordering the Atlantic Ocean, which might also be an interesting area for collaborative development,” Mr Ogah said.
He commended the governor for the “peerless successes” his administration.
“Your administration has accomplished its mission as seen in the massive infrastructures, cultural integration, provision of essential social amenities and many other legacy projects for the prosperity of Rivers State people and Nigerians living and doing businesses in the State,” the minister said.
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