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North: The silver lining through Zamfara gold

It’s not all gloomy after all for the North. Away from the dark cloud of insecurity fostered by the insurgents and banditry activities, comes the…

It’s not all gloomy after all for the North. Away from the dark cloud of insecurity fostered by the insurgents and banditry activities, comes the ray of light across the horizon. First came the cheering news of the discovery of oil, gas and condensates in Gombe State and the stretch of Gongola basin by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its sister agency, the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR), which threw the doubting Thomases who believe nothing positive could come from the region  off balance in 2019.

The landmark uncovering of the treasure specifically along Kolmani River region at the border community between Bauchi and Gombe States, ought to have ordinarily silenced the anti-north elements, but some still questioned the effort, describing the breakthrough as political.

However, the planned exploration of the oil and gas from the basin for commercial purpose would clear all misconceptions, even as it would no doubt put the affected state on the list of oil producing states with consequent fallout.

As the region basked in the euphoria of the oil discovery comes another silver lining from Zamfara through its rich gold deposits which has hitherto fuelled bandit activities in that state. The bandits, as it was widely reported, were taking advantage of the situation by acquiring gold at cheap rate and use same to acquire arms and ammunitions for their nefarious activities.

But as it were, Governor Bello Matawalle is turning the tide against these agents of darkness and their sponsors. The governor had approached the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and by extension the Federal Government for the possibility of boosting the mining sector in the state under the anchor-borrower scheme. The bank will invest the sum of N5 billion for the state to supply it with gold as a proceeds of the investment over time, while under the arrangement, the state government is to purchase the gold from the miners and supply it to the bank.

Already, the federal government has commenced the process of licensing the companies that have indicated interest in mining in the area. What this means for the state is that the gold will no longer be used to fuel the activities of the bandits with the governor stylishly cutting their hold on the supply chain. The second fundamental advantage Matawalle’s gesture throws up is that the state government would have more fund to embark on more projects as he works relentlessly to build a new Zamfara State.

But as usual, those who were profiteering from the seeming lucrative “banditry business” were uncomfortable with the turn of event and have resorted to campaign of calumny against the governor. The sworn anti-north elements are fuelling the misconception that the state government is taking over the minerals within its domain, even as it is public knowledge that mining is exclusive right of the federal government. Their charade has needlessly attracted resources control agitators who are already shouting themselves hoarse in response to the mischief.

But they are bound to fail because  the governor’s action is within the ambit of the law as due process was followed in the purchase of gold from artisanal miners. “Individuals, corporate bodies, including states and local governments, are free to buy any mineral product, as long as you go through the normal process. We have what we call private mineral buying centres. We issue licensees so that anyone that is interested will come to us, and once you meet the criteria, we give you a license to purchase these minerals.

“And that is the angle that Zamfara State is exploiting. From their own funds, they are buying gold from their people.” This clarification by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite in the face of the uproar by the elements over the matter should suffice.

It is sad that senior lawyers who should be abreast of the stipulation of the constitution have joined the misconception foray by creating discontents across the land.

They claimed that the governor’s gesture may trigger other minerals endowed states to deny federal government access to same, while urging the FG to shut down the initiative entirely. This is totally absurd and tended to give credence to the already entrenched speculations that powerful forces who were aiding illegal mining of gold deposits in the state were using bandits as alibi to shield their nefarious activities.

It is public knowledge that some highly influential and prominent personalities, including top politicians, security agents are fully involved in gold mining business in the state, thereby denying governments revenue that would have accrued from the proceed for a very long time.

More disturbing is the fact that these activities have been going on illegally  without  the federal government’s backing through licenses from the federal government. The situation also denied the state government any commission as its source of generating revenue directly or indirectly. A mining survey report indicated that the federal government lost about N3.23 trillion equivalent to $9billion in revenue accruable from gold exports due to the activities of illegal miners across the country, including Zamfara in 2017.

This is the anomaly Matawalle met on ground  and he is working hard to correct through collaboration with the federal government, and expectedly, those who have been benefiting from the situation are fighting back. It is therefore the responsibility of all well-meaning Nigerians especially pressure groups in the north to rally round the governor in the ongoing effort to make the state uncomfortable for the bandits and their sponsors who are using our commonwealth to fight us.

Abubakar writes from U/Rimi, Kaduna, Kaduna State.

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