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Illegal mining: Senate seeks probe of $9bn annual revenue loss

Senate, yesterday, urged the executive arm of government to investigate the alleged annual revenue loss of $9 billion to illegal mining and smuggling of gold in Nigeria. The apex legislative chamber asked the Federal Government to intensify efforts to combat illegal mining and block all revenue leakages from such clandestine activities as well as establish gold mining farms to assist artisans and miners. The Senate passed these resolutions following a motion sponsored by the Senate Chief Whip and former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, during plenary.

The Chamber also mandated its Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy to investigate all illegal mining and revenue leakages associated with the activities. While presenting the motion, Kalu noted that “Nigeria lost close to $54 billion from 2012 to 2018 due to illegal smuggling of gold.

The country is said to be losing about $9 billion yearly to illegal mining and gold exportation, a huge amount of money unaccounted for through under the radar sales of the expensive commodity.

“The activities of unlicensed miners were becoming prevalent within the industry and the incessant smuggling of solid minerals out of the country by middlemen and smugglers is leading to loss of government revenue.” He said that gold mining operations in the country were capable of providing over 250,000 jobs and over $500 million annually in royalties and taxes to the Federal Government and as mineral resources.

The lawmaker explained that this would further help in diversifying the nation’s economy and improve its foreign exchange reserve. “Given our current estimated gold reserves of over 200 million ounces, most of which have not been exploited, developing sustainable programmes that will catalyse increased investment in the extraction and refining of gold sourced from mines in Nigeria, is indeed vital,” he said.

Citing data from the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Steel Development of gold deposits in Abuja, Abia, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo, Kogi, Zamfara, Osun and Kaduna states, Kalu said that Section 44(3) of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Law of 1999 provided that ownership and control of all minerals was vested in the Federal Government, which was mandated to manage such natural resources in a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

In his contribution, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) stressed the need to empower Ministry of Solid Mineral Development to tighten leakages open to illegal miners with a view to contributing meaningfully to the nation’s revenue earnings. Adeyemi specifically stressed the need for government to seal up illegal mining smites in the country, stating that it added to the insecurity challenges facing the country “because most of the miners are foreigners.”

 

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