Minister outlines initiatives to tackle challenges in mining sector 

By Kehinde Aderemi

Recently, hundreds of stakeholders in the mining sector gathered in Lagos and Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. At the town hall meetings that took place over a two-day period, the stakeholders had some engaging sessions with officials of the Federal Government led by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

Among the stakeholders were representatives of local and international mining outfits, officials of federal, states and local governments, financial institutions, manufacturing companies, professional bodies, community organisations, security agencies, civil society groups, sand miners, quarry miners and community leaders. The deliberations were on what the problems in the sector were and how both the government and the miners could profit from the sector.

At the end of the two-day engagement, the minister assured that miners from across the country would soon benefit from a new initiative by the federal government through the ministry.

The meetings were part of the minister’s nationwide engagement with stakeholders in the mining sector. Many of the miners were offered the opportunity to speak with the minister directly on issues bordering on their vocation, just as Fayemi was able to respond to such questions immediately.

The Lagos meeting was held at the Oriental Hotels, Victoria Island.

In his address, Fayemi noted: “We are here to work out an arrangement that would enable all players in the sector to be owners of the new initiative to transform the sector. The roadmap for growth and development in the sector was approved by the Federal Executive Council in September, last year. The nationwide tour we are embarking on at the moment is part of the process to engage all the stakeholders on how best to move the sector forward.”

Highlighting some of the challenges being faced by stakeholders in Lagos and Ogun states, Fayemi assured that the ministry was working on permanently resolving some of the issues.

In his words, some of the challenges are insufficient funding, lack of geological data, illegal mining, community challenges, low productivity, protracted litigations on legacy assets, and weak institutions, among others.

He assured that his ministry would set up a Mining Implementation and Strategy Team (MIST) to drive the effective execution of the roadmap, adding that the initiatives were aimed at strengthening stakeholders’ relationship with the federal government and state governments.

He said the country had the right laws in place, maintaining that implementation had always been the issue. He assured that the established laws and regulations governing the mining sector would be enforced.

He noted that plans were underway to resuscitate the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company.

Many of the stakeholders at the Lagos meeting, who were mainly sand miners, raised a number of issues. One of the main complaints was the alleged interference of the Lagos State government in the mining business. They expressed concern over repeated efforts of the state government to frustrate them out of business through multiple taxation.

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Mr. Olalekan Akingbade, a sand miner from Ajah, said the Lagos state government collects the sum of N500,000 per mineral title holder on dredging and quarrying of sand. He added that many of the mineral title holders that were not natives of Epe in Lagos were issued a stop-work order by the state government.

Other miners who spoke also echoed Akingbade’s sentiments.

A royal father and Aladeshoyin of Odo Noforija in Epe, Oba Babatunde Ogunlaja said the federal and state governments should be paying the host communities endowed with mineral resources some royalty.  The royal father said as the custodians of culture and tradition, traditional rulers should be entitled to whatever resources that come from their communities. 

In his response, Fayemi said the federal government would meet with the state government to resolve some of the issues.

He noted, however, that the federal government could not impose things on the states, stressing that the state government had the right to make rules that would safeguard the environment and insist on standard mining practice so that its environment wasn’t messed up.

After the meeting, the minister and his team inspected some mining sites in Ajah and along the Lekki-Epe corridor where he ordered that some of the illegal sites be shut.

The Ogun State town hall meeting was held at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta. The interactive session lasted for over three hours. Besides the government officials, most of the participants were quarry and laterite miners.

Before the meeting, the minister had met with the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosu, at the Governor’s Office, Abeokuta.

The governor said his administration was willing to support any initiative by the federal government that would lead to development in the state. He noted that Ogun was the number one mining state in Nigeria, regretting that the state had not been getting its dues from the federal government. He lamented that some people were exploring the mineral resources in the state indiscriminately, without taking into consideration the environmental hazards caused by their action. He charged the minister to ensure that Ogun State benefit immensely from the new mining roadmap.

Fayemi, in his response, said he was aware of the various challenges faced by the stakeholders He mentioned some of the problems being faced by miners in Ogun to include multiple taxation by state government agencies, like the local government councils, the state Ministry of Commerce and Industry that issues permits and collects fees from miners for the evacuation of laterite and sand, and a private consulting outfit that collects fees from the miners. The minister noted also that states were now enjoying a 13 percent derivation from mining. He encouraged the state governments to key into mining through special purpose vehicles (SPV). Fayemi assured that his ministry was interested in partnering with the state government to create a win-win situation for every stakeholder.

“We want to create an enabling environment for all the stakeholders in the sector to operate as a family. We intend to explore the mining sector and bring forth arrays of opportunities for small-scale facilities, as well as intervention support for miners and those in the steel sector,” he said.

The minister later visited Dangote Cement Plant in Ibeshe, as well as LAFARGE Cement Plant in Ewekoro.

Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Bimbo Ashiru, and other top government officials were among the government representatives that went on tour of the companies and their quarry sites with the minister.