The Senate on Wednesday urged the Federal Government to intensify efforts to stop illegal mining and block revenue leakages arising from illicit mining.
This followed the adoption of a motion by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu (APC Abia-North) regarding need to investigate the loss of 9 billion U.S. dollars annually to illegal mining and smuggling of gold out of Nigeria at the plenary.
Speaking on the motion, Kalu noted that Nigeria had an average of 21.37 tonnes of gold deposit.
He said that Section 44 (3) of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Law of 1999 provided that ownership and control of all minerals in the country was vested in the Federal Government.
He, however, said that illegal mining was one of the key factors that been stunting the development of Nigeria’s mining industry.
“If we don’t fix this haemorrhage of our economy, we will literally bleed to death,” he said.
Kalu said that in spite of huge gold deposits in Nigeria, the country had yet to benefit from the natural resources due to absence of investors and prevalence of illegal mining in the solid minerals sector.
“Data from the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Development show that there are gold deposits in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Abia, Bauchi, Cross River, Edo, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo, Kogi, Zamfara, Osun and Kaduna states.
“Illegal gold mining has been a reprehensible activity and has continued to thrive, in spite of government’s threat to prosecute the culprits.
“It is critical to observe that if the country conserves its gold reserves and ensure its effective exploitation, the accruing revenue will surpass that of oil and gas.
“In fact, Signal One International, (SOI) a U.S. based company, disclosed in a 2016 report that Nigeria has lost over 50 billion dollars 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 annually to illegal mining operations and gold exportation from 2014 to 2015.
“We must, therefore, intensify efforts to combat illegal mining activities, seal up all revenue leakages from such clandestine activities and rise to the occasion in tackling this matter head-on,” Kalu said.
In his contribution, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC-Kogi) said that the government, in a bid to finance its budget, had been sourcing funds through borrowing, while much of its potential revenues were being stolen through illegal mining.
He underscored the need to empower the Ministry of Solid Mineral Development to curb revenue leakages occasioned by illegal mining, with a view to contributing significantly to the nation’s revenue.