Powerful Nigerians behind illegal mining, insecurity – Minister

The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, has blamed unnamed ‘powerful Nigerians’ for the illegal mining activities and acts of terrorism going on in different parts of the country.

Alake made the allegation on Tuesday when he led a delegation of top officials of the ministry to defend the 2024 budget estimates before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.

He asserted that while banditry might have a foreign component, the major sponsors were Nigerians yet to be identified.

“Those powerful people behind them (illegal miners) are Nigerians; we are identifying them with both kinetic and non-kinetic means. The insecurity in the mining areas is sponsored by illegal mines and these are powerful individuals in the society who are Nigerians,” Alake said.

He added  that for mining to generate sufficient revenue, there was a need to have a formal structure that the multinational could deal with, just like the model being operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd.

Alake put the conservative worth of minerals deposited in the country at over $700bn, saying Nigeria had yet to tap commercially into some of its solid minerals demanded globally due to institutional bottlenecks.

He pleaded with the committee to consider the amount budgeted for the ministry in the 2024 budget proposal.

“What we have is N24bn and this is a non-starter. For this ministry to contribute at least 50 per cent of the nation’s GDP, we need the sum of N250bn to take care of exploration. If we are given that amount of money, I can tell you that what the ministry will contribute will outweigh other ministries, including what we are deriving from oil.

“We cannot leave exploration in the hands of the private sector. We can return trillions to the coffers of this country as revenue if we are given such a budget as proposed,” he added.

According to him, the nation has over 44 minerals in high demand around the globe.

The chairman of the committee, Gaza Gbefwi, described the solid minerals sector as the last hope in the nation’s quest for the diversification of the economy.

Describing the budget estimates for the ministry as grossly inadequate, the lawmaker pledged the readiness of the committee to work assiduously to assist in drawing more funding to facilitate the realisation of Alake’s seven-point agenda.

(Punch)

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