Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says improved collaboration between government and communities is crucial in tapping the potential of Nigeria’s mining sector.
Osinbajo disclosed this during a virtual remark on Thursday in Abuja at the maiden edition of the Strategic Engagement on Sustainable Mining.
The theme of the event is, “Resurrecting our Buried Prosperity.’’
The vice president said that unless the management of Nigeria’s solid mineral resources got things right, the country would continue to live in the paradox of suffering in the midst of plenty.
“The problems are numerous but solvable; the principal issue is that of the challenges of implementing the regulatory framework.
“While the Ministry of Mines and Steel has the legislative mandate to regulate mining in the country, many states and local governments have embarked on the imposition of their own rules and regulations on miners in their states.
“(This) include issuance of Registration, Permits, Community Development Agreements (CDA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on miners.
“ Some state governments, in a bid to shore up their revenues, impose illegal fees, taxes, and levies on foreign and local licensed mining companies and operators.’’
The vice president said that enforcement of the taxes often led to the frequent arrests and harassment of licensed miners and their workers, and closures of mining sites.
According to him, such incidents happen frequently and discourage investors.
“Regrettably, such actions by state governments constitute a major disincentive to prospective investors in the sector and invariably jeopardise the efforts of the government to deepen the mining industry in Nigeria.
“There is no way this will ever benefit the majority of our people; then there are the huge security concerns that always develop in the struggle for control of mineral resources in poorly regulated, unregulated or ungoverned spaces.
“Almost invariably, these situations lead to criminal activities and particularly, the proliferation of weapons and armed groups; this is true historically and more evident now.
“It is apt and timely especially as the Federal Government through the Ministry of Mines and Steel seeks to fully implement its robust and wide-ranging remit in policy and legislation.’’
According to him, the engagement will certainly help in explaining the regulatory framework to the governments at the community level where most of the mining activities take place.
He said such collaboration would enable the ministry and other stakeholders to get direct feedback from the local government authorities and those who had to deal with these issues daily.
Osinbajo said that recently also, as part of the post COVID-19 efforts to preserve existing jobs and create new opportunities, N6 billion was approved for the mining sector under the current Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).
He said the approval was for the development of Mineral Processing Clusters (MPC) across the six geo-political zones of the country to promote large-scale investment in mineral exploitation.
`It is gratifying that the Ministry has recorded considerable progress on these Mining Process Clusters.
“And on security in mining areas, as part of broad efforts to re-engineer the national security architecture to more efficiently confront our challenges, the president recently approved measures aimed at ensuring the security of mining concerns and mining sites.
“These measures which will be driven by the Office of the National Security Adviser in concert with the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development will be hugely significant in creating an enabling environment for the growth of the sector.’’
He submitted among other things that the Federal Government, states and local government should jointly develop working arrangements to ensure that mining was attractive and profitable to investors.
Osinbajo said that a few things would emerge from the regulatory and policy framework that he had shared.
“Mining revenues go to the Federation Account and is shared between the Federal Government, States and Local Governments. States where resources come from get 13 per cent derivation in addition to their share.
“The Federal Government cannot effectively regulate mining without actively, and deliberately working with States, Local Governments and mineral-producing communities.
“The communities where mines are located must also have some direct benefits aside from jobs for their residents. We must find a formula for compensating the communities for environmental degradation and erosion.
“There must also be a framework for ensuring that environmental degradation is remedied.
“We must discourage the export of raw minerals; refining, processing, or beneficiation is the only real way to maximise our mineral wealth and create good-paying jobs and opportunities for our people,’’ he said.
Osinbajo added that such synergy among all stakeholders could be a game changer in Nigeria’s mining sector.(NAN)