From Kenneth Udeh, Abuja

Resolutions to bring an end to illegal mining and gold smuggling and an investigation into the annual loss of $9 billion in Nigeria’s mining sector were reached Wednesday by the Senate

The decisions were made following a motion moved by Abia-North Senator and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, on the need to investigate Nigeria’s  yearly loss of 9 billion US Dollars as a result of illegal mining and gold smuggling.

The Senate, in its plenary session presided over by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo Agege, urged the Executive to intensify efforts to combat illegal mining activities and seal up all revenue leakages from such clandestine activities, and ofr the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy to launch an investigation the matter and report back to the Senate in 6 weeks.

Earlier in his presentation, Kalu disclosed that Nigeria had lost close to $54 billion from 2012 2018 due to illegal smuggling of gold, while also pointing out that the country is reportedly losing about $9 billion yearly to illegal mining and gold exportation, a huge amount of money unaccounted for through under the radar sales of the expensive commodity.

Senator Kalu stated that the activities of unlicensed miners were becoming prevalent within the industry and the incessant smuggling of the solid mineral out of the country by middlemen and smugglers is leading to loss of government revenue.

According to Kalu, gold mining operations in Nigeria are capable of providing no fewer than 250,000 jobs and over $500 million dollars annually in royalties and taxes to the Federal Government and as mineral resources.

Raising additional concerns, the Senate Chief Whip explained that jobs and revenue accrued to the mining sector would further diversify the Nigerian economy and improve the foreign exchange reserve. He explained that due to Nigeria’s current estimated gold reserves of over 200 million ounces, most of which have not been exploited, developing sustainable programmes that will catalyse increased investment in the extraction and refining of gold sourced from mines in Nigeria is vital.

Making reference to data obtained from the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Development, Senator Kalu revealed that there are gold deposits in Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Abia, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo, Kogi, Zamfara, Osun and Kaduna states.

Senator Kalu argued that if the country conserves her gold reserves and ensures effective exploitation, the accruing revenue would surpass that of oil and gas.

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He drew the attention of colleagues to section 44 (3) of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Iaw of 1999 which provides that ownership and control of all minerals in Nigeria is vested in the Federal Government, which is mandated to manage such natural resources in a manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.

In his lead discourse Senator Kalu told the Senate that illegal mining is a major factor responsible for the stunted growth in the mining sector.

‘Distinguished colleagues,you will agree with me that illegal mining is one of the key challenges hindering the development of Nigeria’s mining industry. If we don’t fix this hemorrhage of our economy, we would literally bleed to death,’ he stated.

‘In fact according to Signal One International, SOI, a US based company, disclosed in a 2016 report that Nigeria has lost over $50 billion in gold revenue tax in two years as a result of illegal mining and exportation of  unprocessed gold. Also reports from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI indicated that Nigeria lost about nine billion dollars to illegal mining operations and gold exportation from 2014 to 2015 and in six years accrued to $54 billion dollars,’ Kalu concluded.

Senator Kalu beckoned the Senate to intensify further efforts to combat illegal mining activities,seal up all revenue leakages.

Contributing to the debate, Kogo West Senator Smart Adeyemi expressed support for the motion, raising concerns on global drop in the demand for crude oil and gas, Nigeria’s main source of revenue.

He stressed the need to protect the mining sector, which would serve as an alternative source of revenue for the country.

‘The global economy today is contemplating how to reduce the use of crude oil and gas . In years to come many nations that depend on oil and gas will start looking at renewable energy. In essence pioneer producing nations will start looking for an alternative. Today countries are finding it hard to sell their oil.

‘If you look at Zamfara State there is an enormous deposit of Gold. In the night you see trailers conveying foreigners and these are people involved in illegal mining. We have to engage the executives, because the solid mineral sector needs serious attention beyond just talking,’ Senator Adeyemi said.

Senator Ajayi Borofice, in his support to the motion said the Nigeria’s gold deposit was beyond that of South Africa, stating the need for the sector to be protected from exploitation.