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Resource control and Zamfara gold mines

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Resource control and Zamfara gold mines

The Federal Government recently ordered the immediate suspension of mining activities in Zamfara State and its environs. It also ordered foreigners to quit mining sites in the state, alleging that there was a nexus between the bandits terrorising the communities in Zamfara and the illicit gold miners. Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Muhammed Adamu, said that the decision was part of efforts to flush out and end banditry and criminality in Zamfara State in particular and the North-West region of the country. Consequently, the Nigeria Police, in collaboration with the Nigerian military and other security services, have launched a special security offensive code-named “Operation Puff Adder” to flush out the bandits. In addition to the suspension of mining activities, the police chief directed all foreigners operating in the mining fields to close shop and leave within 48 hours, threatening that henceforth, any mining operator who engages in mining activities in the affected locations will have his license revoked. We commend the security agencies for finally rising to the occasion by reading the riot act on the security challenges in Zamfara State. This particular crisis has lingered for too long and resulted in huge loss of human lives and property. Before this rather belated action, many Nigerians were beginning to wonder if our security and intelligence community still considered Zamfara as part of Nigeria. However, the pronouncements of government on the crisis have raised even more fundamental questions about Nigeria and its brand of federalism. We are wondering whether the banditry in Zamfara would have grown into a full scale war requiring the deployment of ground troops and fighter jets if Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari of Zamfara had control of the Police Command in his state. We recall that at some points in this crisis, Yari was forced to publicly admit his frustration and helplessness. It is only in Nigeria that the governor is the chief executive officer of a state but not the chief security officer. It is only in Nigeria that the governor is entitled to security votes running into billions of naira, but this fund is seldom deployed for security. Everyone knows that the primary purpose of government is the protection of lives and property of the citizenry, but why should a governor be concerned about banditry or spend security votes on security matters when the power over security resides with the Federal Government in Abuja? The situation in Zamfara brings to the fore the agitation for state police and the laughable arguments against it in some quarters, particularly in the Northern Nigeria. The Zamfara debacle has also exposed the under-belly of our corrupted federalism and the hypocrisy of our leaders on the vexed issues of resource control. Despite the claim by our leaders to the running of a federal democratic system of government, everyone knows it is only federal in name, but in reality, it is unitary system. Since 1967 when the regime of General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) tinkered with the structure of the federation and created 12 states by military fiat, Nigeria has been facing a steady erosion of her federalism. The creation of states was meant to whittle down the influence of the then Eastern Region, which had seceded at that time as the Republic of Biafra. The fragmentation, which was purely a divide and rule tactic, was followed by the promulgation of a decree, which gave the Federal Government right to confiscate every mineral resource found anywhere in Nigeria. These actions, which were taken as part of the exigencies of war at that time, were the forerunners of many obnoxious laws that eroded the autonomy of the regions and bastardised federalism in Nigeria. Today, the governments of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are tied to the apron strings of the Federal Government. Once every month, they gather in Abuja for the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting where they share the revenue accruing from oil, a resource derived from the oil fields of the Niger Delta. It is a known fact that since mines and minerals got into the Exclusive List, oil has remained the main foreign exchange earner for the country. In other words, while the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has remained in full control of the oil and gas resources, the same government has left the solid mineral deposits across the North to private citizens to exploit. Under the watch of the Federal Government and the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, illegal mining of gold, uranium and other minerals have been going on without check. We foresee that soon, the Zamfara saga would trigger a resurgence of the agitation for resource control, especially across the nine oil bearing states of the Niger Delta. There can be no justification for the Mines and Minerals Act being applied selectively in different parts of Nigeria. We implore members of the National Assembly to be courageous and patriotic when next they have an opportunity to amend the constitution. They must shun all primordial sentiments and illogical persuasions by voting for devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units. It is the only way to end this warped federalism that has yielded nothing, but lawlessness and insecurity in Nigeria.

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