The Federal Government Thursday unfolded plans to reposition the solid minerals sector, in consonance with the Renewed Hope Agenda.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake, said that the law against illegal mining was still in force, warning culprits to desist or face the dire consequences.
He said the law is no respecter of status, urging the perpetrators, whether state, individuals or corporate institution, to halt the illegality.
Alake gave the warning in Abuja at the graduation and presentation of starter packs to Batch Three graduates of the ministry’s programme on gemstone and jewellery master training and empowerment.
He said the ministry was working closely with security agencies to design a solid and enduring formula for combating illegal mining and exploitation of minerals.
Stressing that there will be no business as usual, Alake said: “Lt me use this opportunity to send a very stern and strong warning to the entire nation, that with Mr. President, there is a new sheriff in town. With illegal mining, exportation of gemstones, critical minerals will no longer be tolerated by this administration.
“My ministry is currently putting in place some strategies, tactics and logistics. We are working very closely with the security agencies, with a view to designing a very solid and enduring formula for combating illegal mining and illegal exploitation of all critical minerals in this country.
”In due course, the details will be unfolded to the public, but I’m just using this opportunity to send a strong warning to those currently engaged in illegal mining in Nigeria, that henceforth, it will no longer be business as usual.
“The definition of illegal activity is very straightforward. Those who are mining without the requisite Federal Government approved licences. Those are illegal miners. Whether it is a state, individual or corporate institution, it doesn’t matter who is committing the offence. It’s an offence to mine illegally in Nigeria. And this practice has been going on for ages, in fact, before independence. However, it must stop.
“And that’s why I gave that stern warning. And I mean it, that is the message of the President. illegal activities in this critical mining sector, solid mineral sector, must stop henceforth and it’s not just exaltation is not just sermonisation, we are putting very concrete and enduring steps and strategies to combat this menace, because he’s really affecting, adversely affecting the economic fortunes of Nigeria.”
He added: “We must harness all our critical resources for the benefit of our nation. Today, it is a known fact all over the world that hydrocarbons are on the downward trend in global international trade.
Oil that has been very contingent to our development, GDP substantially, is no longer what it used to be and is on the decline. So, what do we do? We have to shift attention to non-oil exports? And believe me, Nigeria is sitting on one of the most humongous amount of mineral resources in the world.
“There is virtually no single state in this country that does not have one mineral or the other that are sought after international global markets.”
Project Coordinator, Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification (MinDiver), Sallim Salaam, an engineer, said the essence of the training and empowerment was for value addition, which has always been the plan of the government.
He said the third batch of 30 trainees would join the other batches, bringing the number of trainees in the gemstone and jewellery to 70.
He said the trainees would be expected to return their states and train others in jewellery making.