The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite says the federal government will ensure the prosecution of all suspects of illegal mining in the country, stating that the administration will not be deterred by frantic efforts being made by godfathers to foil the planned prosecution.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja on Friday, the minister said the Federal Government will not bow to pressure to free the Chinese and others arrested for illegal mining in Zamfara and Osun states in April.
He said confessions of some of the illegal miners who were arrested by security agents have indicted prominent personalities in the country, saying that those in positions of authority must rise up to the sacred call of dispensing their duties judiciously.
‘These godfathers were operating with impunity before, but they are now scared because the arrested illegal miners are calling names, but the godfathers are denying,’ he said, adding that the suspects will be prosecuted.
“The law is on our side and we must prosecute these people to serve as a deterrent.”
The minister said some state government officials, heads of security agencies, and traditional rulers, were involved in illegal mining.
“There is a particular situation where soldiers in a particular cantonment are aiding illegal miners,” he said.
He said the government of Nigeria would engage the Chinese government over the illegal activities of their nationals in Nigeria.
The minister described illegal mining of gold in the country by the Chinese nationals as economic sabotage.
Two Chinese were arrested for illegal mining in Zamfara, despite a subsisting ban on mining activities in the state by the Federal Government.
The ban followed the alleged links between illegal mining and banditry, which has led to the loss of hundreds of lives and destruction of property in the state.
Twenty-seven people, including 17 Chinese, Senegalese, Burkinabes and Nigerians were arrested for illegal mining in Osun.
A steady rise in the value of gold due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on currencies has been linked to the recent spike in illegal gold mining and the Federal Government, which is grappling with challenges arising from the decline in oil price, is determined to capitalise on the country’s gold deposits to shore up its revenue.
The minister, who claimed the illegal miners were working for “Nigerians in high positions of authority”, said they had decided to adopt diplomatic and legal measures towards addressing the illegal mining by foreigners in the country.
He said, “The Chinese are the main culprits in the illegal mining activities and we are going to meet with the Chinese Embassy.
“We are going to present all the facts to them so that it will not appear as if we are targeting them unfairly.
“Taking gold out of Nigeria illegally is economic sabotage because if you look at the quantum, the value is huge.”
According to him, the influential Nigerians he refused to name have been mounting pressure on the government to free the illegal miners.
But he said the suspects would be prosecuted.
Adegbite said the ministry had finalised plans to take over the prosecution of all persons arrested for illegal mining.