Stakeholders at the public hearing on solid minerals development, on Tuesday, were damn shocked over revelations by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, that private jet owners in Nigeria smuggle gold outside the country.
The public hearing, which was presided by the Senate Committee on Solid Mineral Development and former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, intended to proffer a solution to illegal mining in Nigeria.
It was estimated that Nigeria loses $9 billion annually due to illegal mining and smuggling of gold, in the earlier motion sponsored by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu before senators went on annual vacation.
“Gold smuggling in Nigeria are often done using private jets, the very reason private jets ownership and operations, need to be streamlined in the country “, he said.
According to him, illegal mining in Nigeria started far back in the early 1980s as a result of the indigenization policy of the military regime in the late 1970s.
The challenge, 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.
He lamented further that gold smuggling and illegal mining which are robbing the country of billions of dollars on yearly basis thrive due to series of factors like connivance of security agencies with the offenders, host communities collaboration, low level of application of technology, and negative mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria.
“For these crimes to be fought decisively, potent punitive measures like capital punishment, need to be legally provided for.”
He, however, added that the menace can be tackled proactively 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 a collective wealth of all Nigerians that must not be illegally explored by anybody within or from outside the country ”, he stressed.
In the same vein, a member of the Committee, Senator Francis Fadaunsi alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), made smuggling so easy in Nigeria.
The apex bank he explained, facilitates the menace through its lopsided and exclusive policy on FOREX availability to Nigerians.
According to him, “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.”