The Minister of Solid Minerals, Mr Dele Alake has alleged that powerful Nigerians involved in illegal mining were the ones sponsoring banditry and terrorism in the country.
Alake said this when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals for the 2024 budget defence in Abuja on Tuesday.
According to him, a lot of banditry and terrorism are sponsored by illegal miners; they are not people who pick gold on the ground but powerful individuals in the country.
He said majority of the illegal miners were not foreigners but added that foreigners could be seen as symptoms.
“Nigerians are those powerful people behind them; we are identifying them with both kinetic and non-kinetic means. We have encouraged those petty illegal miners to form cooperatives.”
He said the most disturbing aspect was that most of the foreigners engaged in illegal mining in the country had no proper immigration.
He said for mining to generate the requisite revenue, there was need to have a formal structure that the multinationals could deal with, just like the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Ltd.
He, however, said the approach of the ministry under his leadership would be different from NNPCL, adding that the structure being proposed for Nigeria Mining Cooperation would be primarily private sector driven.
He added that “Nigeria will also have its equity, adding that this will mean that no government after can destabilize the structure.”
He said the conservative amount of minerals deposited in the country was over 700 billion dollars, adding Nigeria had not even accessed a quarter of what it has.
He urged the chairman of the committee to support the process, adding that this would help change mining in the country.
He also said the host communities where mining activities took place across the country would be engaged to forestall breakdown of laws and orders.
He pleaded with the committee to consider the amount budgeted for the ministry in the 2024 budget proposal.
“If we are given that amount of money, I can tell you that what the ministry will contribute will outweigh other ministries, including what we are deriving from oil.
“We can return trillions to the coffers of this country as revenue if we are given such a budget as proposed,” he said.
According to him, we have 44 minerals in high demand but we have six that are in global demand.
He said Nigeria had the potential to become one of the destination hubs of the world’s economy through solid minerals.
He, however, said there was need to sanitize the operating environment for the investors.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Gaza Gbefwi (SDP -Nasarawa) said the solid minerals sector remained the last hope for the country to attain the level of diversity it required.
He, however, said that the funds appropriated to the sector in the 2024 budget were grossly inadequate.
He added that the committee had taken proactive steps to put up motions and bills that would strengthen and reorganise the sector.