President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said foreigners and anyone involved in the illegal mining of solid minerals in the country are engaging in criminal enterprise that undermines the sovereignty of the Nigerian State.
A statement from the office of the Senate President quoted Lawan as saying during the consideration of a Policy Reforms for the diversification of the economy that illegal miners should be declared criminals.
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“It is our duty to have legislation either in form of amendment or new legislations to ensure that the solid minerals sector is supported.
“I want to agree also with Senator Rochas Okorocha, that we have people who come in from outside the country, who go into our mining sites and exploit our minerals without any due process.
“I think we should declare such people criminals, whether they are Chinese or anybody else, because this is going against our sovereignty.
“Nobody should come into our country, go to our sites, exploit our minerals and go away with them.
“We want to attract foreign direct investments, but we should have proper processing of every concern that wants to participate in this sector. What is happening is criminal and everywhere.
“It happens in the North Central part of Nigeria where we have a lot of solid minerals, probably in Zamfara, too.
“I think it is for us in government to ensure that this is stopped, that we attract people and process their requests.
“I want to agree with the committee that we should have ease of doing business in the solid minerals sector, even though we have a general law which the Vice President’s office is handling, but it is time we look at specifically, the area of solid minerals to see how we can make it much easier for investors to participate”, Lawan said.
According to the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparent Initiatives (NEITI), Nigeria lost $9 billion between 2014 to 2015 to illegal mining of gold and other mineral resources.
The Senate while adopting the recommendations of the Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy as contained in its report, urged the Federal Government to collaborate with States and Local Governments and the Private Sector to invest in infrastructural development that will provide private investment in all areas of the sector.
The Senate also called for a review of the Government-to-Government agreement with the Government of Russia on the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company to ensure the production of liquid steel in the most realistic timeframe.