THE TASK BEFORE THE MINISTER OF SOLID MINERALS DEVELOPMENT OF NIGERIA

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The Minerals and Mining Act 2007/2011, make available a very useful framework for the exploration and exploitation of minerals in Nigeria. The robust provisions if respected and diligently applied certainly will create sanity, environmental sustainability, remarkable achievements for government in terms of revenue generation and fairness/relief for host communities, which have over the years witnessed a fraught relationship with mining companies.

The Ministry of Solid Mineral Development and all her sister environmental agencies should in this new dispensation allow the provision to serve as the only useful framework for the sector if any positive and remarkable progress must be made. We all know that theme problem is not with policy and legislation but with enforcement.

Urban-Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED) is calling on the Minister of the sector to therefore strictly employ the mineral and mining Act to pursue and accomplish the aims for which the ministry was established without compromise.
One area of major concern when it comes to solid mineral exploitation is the quarry industry whose activities threaten the socio-economic, health, lives, rights, privileges, source of livelihood, identities and existence of host communities. The big and small in the host communities are highly traumatised especially each time they blast the rock. The plights of communities hosting quarry companies in FCT and the country at large should come to focus as provided for under the Mining Act. Rights and privileges of host communities such as prohibition of mineral exploration and exploitation in certain areas, reservation of rights of owner or occupier, assessment of various compensations and payment of same, remediation of mines land. Community Development Agreements, participation in environmental impact assessment and monitoring, location of quarries kilometres away from residence and use of environmentally friendly explosives should not be compromised.

Illegal quarrying and mining operations is another area the Minister needs to seriously tackle as it has extremely unpleasant implications such as revenue loss to government, damage to host communities, barrier to communities and national developments and environmental degradations that pose danger to both human and animal lives like the Zamfara State lead poisoning incident that led to the death of over four hundred children and others having brain damage in the affected community as a result of irresponsible and illegal mining.
As part of measures to enforce the Mining Act, the Minister should also ensure that quarry companies comply with the minimum employment targets for Nigerians. Having a high number of expatriates as employees by the companies should not be allowed to continue, as the goal of the present administration is to create jobs for the teeming unemployed Nigeria youths. One of the primary reasons for granting the companies license to mine is to create employment for Nigerians. If these jobs are given to expatriates rather than Nigerians, reversing this trend must not be ignored by the minister.
As matter of fact, the Minister should inspect some of the quarries in FCT and the nation at large unannounced to see things for himself, interact with host communities, hired Nigerian labourers in the quarries to know where the rules are being violated and ensure compliance.

The Minister should ensure that companies meet the required standards in accordance with the establishing laws on environmental compliance, host communities rights, employment of Nigerians in key positions, use of environmentally friendly mining explosives, conducive working conditions and environmental impact assessment report among others. No miner should commence operation without meeting these conditions. While existing ones must be compelled to comply or be sanctioned.
Irresponsible and illegal mining should not be condoned by the minister as the ministry was set up to sustainably unlock the economic potentials of the nation’s solid minerals for national development. The task of sustainably transforming Nigeria’s mineral sector into an irresistible mining destination for global capital in line with the ministry’s vision is now or never. Before the emergence of petroleum, solid minerals was one of the key sectors largely sustaining the economy before the nation was afflicted with the disease of mono-product dependency for about four decades now.

The task before the Honourable Minister therefore as a statutory responsibility should be to fully and sustainably develop the economic potentials of the solid minerals of the country for poverty alleviation and job creation as it is evident currently that we must leave the oil in the soil coupled with the fact that we can no longer rely on oil alone to sustain the economy.

© God’spower Martins is the Executive Director, Urban-Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED).

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