By Kingsley Okoye
The Senate has urged the Federal Government to intensify efforts to stop illegal mining and block revenue leakages arising from unlawful mining.
This followed the adoption of a motion on need to investigate the loss of 9 billion dollars annually to illegal mining and smuggling of gold out of Nigeria by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu (APC Abia- North) at plenary.
Speaking on the motion, Kalu said that Nigeria has an average of 21.37 tonnes of gold deposit.
He said that Section 44 (3) of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining law of 1999, provided that ownership and control of all minerals in Nigeria was vested in the federal government.
According to him, illegal mining was one of the key challenges hindering the development of Nigeria’s mining industry.
“If we don’t fix this hemorrhage of our economy, we will literally bleed to death,” Kalu said.
He said that in spite of huge gold deposits in the country, Nigeria was yet to benefit from the natural resources due to absence of investors and prevalence of illegal mining in the solid mineral sector.
“Data from the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Development shows that there are gold deposits in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Abia, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo, Kogi, Zamfara, Osun and Kaduna states.
“Illegal gold mining has been a reprehensible activity and has continued to thrive, in spite of government’s threat to prosecute the culprits.
“It is critical to observe that if the country conserves its gold reserves and ensure effective exploitation, the accruing revenue will surpass that of oil and gas.
“In fact, Signal One International, (SOI) a U.S. based company, disclosed in a 2016 report that Nigeria has lost over 50 billion dollars in gold revenue tax in two years as a result of illegal mining and exportation of unprocessed gold.
“Also, reports from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) indicated that Nigeria lost about nine billion dollars to illegal mining operations and gold exportation from 2014 to 2015 and in six years accrued to 54 billion dollars.
“We must therefore intensify further efforts to combat illegal mining activities , seal up all revenue leakages from such clandestine activities and rise to the occasion in tackling this matter head on, “Kalu said.
In his contribution, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC- Kogi) said the government in a bid to finance its budget has been sourcing fund through borrowing, while much of its potential revenues were being stolen through illegal mining.
He stressed the need to empower the Ministry of Solid Mineral Development to curb leakages occasioned by illegal mining with a view to contributing significantly to the nation’s revenue.