. . . says FG’s commitment to develop sector is blighted by illegal mining
. . . as Minister insists FG will tackle challenges
The Ohinoyi and paramount ruler of Ebiraland, Alh Dr. Ado Ibrahim has challenged foreign investors operating in the Nigeria mining sector to be just and fair to host communities no matter how much money and technology they may be willing to invest in the country, stating that there is hardly any investment that will succeed without consideration of the social and economic interest of host communities.
The paramount ruler who gave the charge at the National Mining Conference recently in Abuja bitterly lamented the backwardness of the sector, stating that illegal mining is one of the reasons responsible for investment failures in the sector.
Lamenting Nigeria’s lost glory, the monarch recalled: ‘Nigeria was sometime the largest producer of tin ore in the world. During the Second World War, Nigeria was next to Malaysia, but today, all that glory is lost.’
While partly attributing the decline to illegal mining, he noted with concern that Nigeria failed to take advantage of growth opportunities afforded by the technology age: ‘It is sad especially that it is happening at a time when technology should to be used to advance the prosperity of the sector as have done Nigeria’s contemporaries.’
According to him, illegal mining has continued to thrive as a result of failure of successive governments to deploy the machinery of state to address the problem, warning that if the ugly trend is not addressed, it will result in many more investment failures in the sector.
‘I have advised this government and the previous government to consider establishing a mines police. In my days in the minefield, I was very conversant with mines rangers, who were more or less police men trained to go to the minefields to spy on operators in order to expose their dirty dealings. They were able to expose illegal miners. Those days, mine rangers were very effective and they helped prevent revenue leakages.
‘I have continued to advocate this but I don’t think it has been considered.
In my own mining lease, there are more illegal miners than licensed operators such that they make the profits which licensed operators would have made thereby making the legal miners losers.
‘I do not hold government directly responsible for illegal mining, but I think government is indirectly responsible because it failed to stop illegal mining after all there is no reason why it cannot stop illegal miners from operating.
According to the monarch, ‘government ought not to tolerate illegal mining, it ought to engage the police and the army to force a stop, but it has not been able to do so till date.
Illegal mining has continued to stunt the development of the sector because foreign investors are not keen on investing in a sector that has become unsafe as a result of the continued activities of an outlawed group of miners.
“I can’t excuse the government; I don’t expect that illegal miners, some of who are illiterates can so permanently outsmart government while the government continues to claim that it is doing its best to rid the sector of illegal mining activities.
Prescribing a blueprint for successful approach of host communities, he said: ‘Host communities are very interested in what they stand to gain from businessmen who come to mine in their communities. The best way to gain from a planned investment is to approach locals with kindness and determination to be fair and just to them.
‘An unfriendly investor is not likely to get cooperation of the host community.’ The monarch said adding that communities have become wiser and enlightened about the rules.
‘If you approach them wrongly, they will advise you rightly.
‘If you go to a community to take from them what you know they cannot give you easily, you are looking for trouble unless there are good laws which protect you from being troubled. Communities are becoming wiser than investors.
‘Justice and fairness are the watchwords,’ he said noting that justice is the timeless philosophy of successful entrepreneurship all over the world.
‘An investor that approaches a community with a sense of justice will succeed with that community.
‘I don’t think that investors are to blame, but I have seen what is wrong with government because government welcomes foreign investors but fails to give them the right charge.
Discussing his efforts to attract foreign investment to the sector, the monarch said: ‘Four times I went to Australia and discussed with the Australian the prospect of investment in the Nigeria mining sector and they promised to come, but they didn’t come.
‘They didn’t come because they felt that Nigeria is not suitable for their investment. Yet I signed four mining contracts with Australians that were appreciated by the federal government but they never came to execute it.
‘But I can see that Nigeria has now determined to be friendly and to make investments secure. Friendly investment-friendly polices now characterise the Nigerian mining sector and this will attract foreign investors except that there is still the problem of illegal mining.
‘The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development now consists of enlightened people who know what they are doing. In addition, the laws have been reviewed to reflect emerging trends.