A New York-based lawyer and chartered accountant, Owolabi Salis, has said the Federal Government should be more decisive on the activities of illegal miners in the country.
He said many Nigerians are not aware that illegal miners, especially the foreigners in collaboration with some bad eggs in the country, are responsible for over 60 to 65 percent of insecurity confronting the nation.
Speaking with The Guardian Newspapers, Salis said these illegal miners often instigate, fund and orchestrate communal clash(es) to displace people from their land with the aim to get illegal access to natural resources.
Salis, who has contested for gubernatorial elections twice in Lagos State and former PDP National Secretary also faulted the Federal Government’s 30-day ultimatum to illegal miners in the country. He said joining a miner’s association would not bring a solution to the activities of illegal miners in Nigeria.
According to him, “Nigeria is losing billions of dollars owing to the government’s negligence of the mining sector. Several factors are bedeviling the mining industry, two of them are illegal mining and smuggling of precious gems, aquatic animals, wild animals and others out of Nigeria.
“Nigeria is losing billions of dollars every year due to our negligence in the mining sector. The authority has not controlled the issue of mining, which is also creating a security threat.
“Most of these illegal miners operate without government’s approval and they are masterminded by foreigners in collaboration with local lords.
“The foreign illegal miners are the ones funding insurgency to displace people from their communities, with the aim to gain access to carry out the illegal mining. They will invade the village to displace innocent people, especially where they discover valuables and raw materials. All these international criminals are at the forefront and the Nigerian authority does not pay attention to it.”
Salis also urged the government to inculcate mining into the nation’s education curriculum. According to him, “This would teach and enlighten younger Nigerians about the gains in the mining sector.”
He said, “Mining education should be introduced in primary and secondary schools and of course the tertiary institutions. Mining is key to transforming the earth to usefulness to people. Countries that are proficient in mining train their kids in the area and also make it compulsory.
He said President Bola Tinubu should pay more attention to mining. ” One of the problems of African people is they are not paying attention to how to transform natural resources to human use, for valuable use, it is not only limited to solid minerals. It includes precious gems in the ocean.”
He advised the government to make laws that would ban illegal miners from operation.
“Natural resources in the ground belong to the people of Nigeria.
Several laws all over the world safeguard valuable minerals, which belong to the country. You can own the land but you don’t own the resources in the ground. Some countries allow people to pay taxes. The government taxes them heavily to access these resources. In the modern world, they tax them in a way that they own the resources.
No country will allow you to buy land and you saw gold there and you said all the gold is your own. Everything belongs to the government and you have to account for it.
He added that the government should stop prominent traditional rulers that are encouraging illegal mining.
“So, many of these traditional rulers have their shares in gold after mining and the poor are used as cheap laborers.
According to him, “Some people come from foreign countries to deforest our land, meanwhile, they leave the forest in their own country. The government needs to be more serious and the problem is the civil servants, when you handover things to them it is never done.
Salis also said the government should endeavor to reinforce the local watch to monitor activities in the community; they will also serve as surveillance to monitor activities in the neighborhood.