The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said his regime has discovered that criminals have infiltrated the mining industry in the country.
Buhari said this on Tuesday while declaring open the 56th annual international conference and exhibition of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan.
The theme of the conference was: ‘Responsible exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in a secured environment’.
His address was read by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah.
The President said since most mining activities were taking place in remote places, it was easy for criminals to infiltrate the mining industry.
He added that the money made from the industry was being used to fund criminal activities to the detriment of the economy of the country and its security.
Buhari stated that apart from the security implications of the criminals on the economy, their actions were affecting the security of lives and property of the people in many ways.
The President said, “The reality of this truth is most obvious in the minerals sector given the fact that mining activities take place in remote localities. Our intelligence gathering efforts have confirmed that most of these criminal elements have infiltrated the mining industry and are using it as means of funding their despicable activities.
“It is with this understanding that we recently took the painful but necessary decision of banning all forms of mining activities in Zamfara State, where armed banditry has persisted.
“It is also to this end that I directed the ministers of Mines and Steel Development to strengthen collaboration with state governments and relevant security agencies to ensure the security and safety of all mining areas. In so doing, we can achieve sustainable development of the minerals sector for the peace and security of our great country and good people.
“It is in furtherance of our commitment and resolve to address the security challenges that I recently charged the newly-decorated service chiefs that they have just a few weeks to crush all forms of criminality in the country. We cannot yield the sovereignty of our nation to a bunch of individuals, who have refused to see reasons to abandon their criminality.
“The security chiefs have been mandated to forcefully bring this criminality to an immediate end. Let me reiterate that the government is more than capable and more than ever determined to halt all forms of criminality perpetuated by these individuals.”
Buhari restated the commitment of his regime to diversifying Nigeria’s economy using mining and agriculture sectors as viable option.
The Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, who was decorated as a fellow of the NMGS alongside others, identified the placement of mining on the exclusive list as a factor hindering its development.
Makinde said, “One of the factors holding back exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the various states, including Oyo State, is the ownership of resources.
“Mineral development and exploration are currently placed on the exclusive list of the Nigerian Constitution. This has slow the development of the sector and eliminated direct state and local people’s participation. We know what this means in real terms: The state and the people have to wait to get a share of their natural resources instead of being the ones to share them.
“Well, the good news is that recently, Zamfara State was allowed to mine and own its gold deposits. It signals that it is time to again push for resource control for all states.
“As a matter of fact and urgency, here in Oyo State, we call for the delisting of the mineral resource ownership and development from the exclusive list.”
The Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mallam Mele Kyari, said the country was a natural gas province and the next energy strategy must be built around effective domestic utilisation of natural gas and overall monetisation of gas.