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Private jet owners aiding gold smuggling –Minister

Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr.Uche Ogah, yesterday, disclosed that some private jet owners were aiding gold smuggling in Nigeria. Ogah, who made the revelation at an investigative hearing on $9billion annual loss to illegal mining and smuggling of Gold, organised by the Senate Commitee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, called for capital punishment for both the illegal miners and their influential collaborators. “For these crimes to be fought decisively, potent punitive measure like capital punishment need to be legally provided for,” he said.

He said that given the involvement of private jet owners in this illicit gold trade, there was an urgent need for government to streamline ownership and operations of private jets in the country. According to him, illegal mining in Nigeria started in the early 1980s as a result of the indigenization policy of the military regime. The menace he explained, was prompted by the inability of indigenous workers to obtain mineral titles and required technology for mining used by the British miners before the indigenization policy of that era. Ogah lamented that illegal mining and smuggling of gold, which rob the country of billions of dollars every year, thrive due to the connivance of security agencies and host communities, the low level of application of technology and negative mindsets of citizens towards their country.

However, he said, the menace can also be tackled through the establishment of Mines Police, Special Court or Tribunals to try offenders, adequate funding for the Ministry and positive mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria. “The main crux of the matter is for us to be Nigerian by seeing ourselves as Nigerians in all circumstances . “Doing this will make us see mineral resources in our communities as collective wealth of all Nigerians that must not be illegally explored by anybody within or from outside the country,” he said. Meanwhile, a member of the Committee, Senator Francis Fadaunsi (PDP Osun East), noted: “Gold Smuggling and Illegal Mining are carried out by political elites and not just the poor masses at the illegal mining sites.

“Categories of Nigerians at the top from political office holders, politicians, traditional rulers, top security officers etc, are involved in gold smuggling and illegal mining in one way or the other. The poor ones did it on behalf of the big ones,” he said. Chairman of the Committee , Senator Tanko Al- Makura (APC/ Nasarawa), said that for thorough investigation of the menace, heads of relevant government agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) , Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Police , Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) will have to be summoned to explain their roles in the cartel.

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