The mining sector’s contribution to the economy is gradually inching up, remitting over N3.5 billion to the federation account in 2017. However, stakeholders are worried over activities of illegal miners, who may reverse the modest gain recorded by the sector. ABDULWAHAB ISA reports
The mining sector recorded a modest gain ever in 2017, a feat, which was attributed to series of reforms unleashed in the sector including its overhaul to make it attractive to investors.
The gain translated to improved perception ranking in the World’s Risk Report published by the Mining Journal in 2017. The study showed Nigeria made remarkable improvements in both hard and perceived risk factors.
As evidenced in world’s mining journal, Nigeria’s mining jurisdiction is considered to have a better investment risk profile than several other leading jurisdictions. It was rated the best in Africa. The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in 2016 initiated reforms to align with the current administration’s economic diversification blueprint. A sector road map was approved in August 2016. Last year saw the commencement of the full implementation of the roadmap.
Contribution to economy
Mining sector surpassed its previous record of contribution to the economy in 2017.
Addressing the media last month, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the sector remitted over N3.5 billion into the federation account as at last November. Fayemi said: “The mining sector featured in the story of our journey to economic recovery and consolidation. For example, in reporting the GDP figures for second quarter 2017, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics indicated that the economy grew by 0.55 per cent, largely attributed to improved performance of not only the oil and gas sector, but other economic activities like mining. The mining sector grew by 2.24 per cent in that quarter.
“Consolidating on our feat of achieving a 300 per cent increase in revenue (royalties and fees) between 2015 and 2016, we steadily progressed in 2017 and, as at November of the year, the sector had already surpassed the entire revenue of about N2 billion generated for the whole of 2016, with over N3.5 billion naira contributed to the federation account so far.” However, there are fears that activities of illegal miners may inflict incalculable damage on the sector’s fortune. It remains one of the sector’s troubling headache.
Danger of illegal miners
Notwithstanding the modest progress recorded by the sector in 2016 and 2017, activities of illegal miners are rubbing off on the gains. The government is losing huge sum of revenue to the activities of illegal miners. The ministry and security agencies are in a running battle with the illegal miners whose mode of operations have been daring.
As recent as August 2017, Fayemi and the National Security Adviser, Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), ordered the arrest of over 20 Chinese miners and the closure of all mining sites at Kamfaning Zurak in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State over illegal mining.
Mongunu also declared one of the miners, Abdullahi Adamu Usman, a Nigerian, popularly called ‘Dan China,’ wanted and ordered Operation Safe Haven to produce him.
Stories abound of miners swooping on mining sites without authorised lease.
Intrusion of illegal miners into unauthorised sites is not without the backing of a few influential individuals, mostly traditional and community leaders of such area. To arrest the economic damage, members of Miner’s Association of Nigeria (MAN) urged government to take drastic action and save the sector from immnent ruin. Addressing the media recently in Abuja, National President, MAN, Alhaji Sani Shehu, commended the Federal Government for clamping down on illegal miners. He said that more drastic actions must be taken to nib their activities.
“We wish to commend government for clamping down on illegal mining activities in different parts of the country, especially in Zurak, Plateau State and Majo Sina in Taraba State. We repeatedly state that government is under obligation to protect a licence holder from any form of illegal mining, trespassing or disturbances from anybody,” he noted.
He regretted the unrestrained menace of illegal miners, noting that it had the potential of crippling modest economic gains recorded if it remains unchecked.
“It’s becoming worrisome to see operations of legal miners being disrupted either by a group of people. It’s also common for thousands of illegal miners to invade a licensed site and render the owner powerless,” Sanni lamented.
An instance involving Majo Sina of Mabilla Plateau in Taraba State came handy in referencing the menace of illegal miners. It remains a sordid case in the industry.
An indigenous mining operator was said to have invested hundreds of millions of naira to obtain legality and procure machinery and equipment, only to fall victim of illegality when illegal miners and hoodlums invaded the site, killed and maimed staff including security personnel. The hoodlums did not stop just at that. They reportedly razed machinery and equipment worth hundreds of millions of naira.
The activities of illegal miners have the potential of neutralising modest gains recorded by the sector. It’s an ugly trend that requires the sector’s shareholders to rally security agencies to effectively nip in the bud their nefarious activities.