Niger Delta And The Zamfara Gold Wahala

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Without the doubt, the EndSARS protest is an expression of deep-seated anger of a greater majority of the citizenry who have been suffering untold deprivation, neglect, and marginalisation for too long, against the unjust Nigerian state.

The Nigeria Police happens to be the immediate victim of the angry citizens who are no longer willing to die in silence while the plundering circle continues to consign them into squalor and want. The uprising is against a system that allows injustice, inequity, and impunity to fester.

The way things are presently from the North to the South, and from the East to the West, everywhere is a battlefront in Nigeria. For some, it is environmental terrorism, Boko Haram terrorism, unemployment terrorism, hunger terrorism, religious terrorism, ethnic terrorism, and of course, the obviously new normal, Baba Go Slow terrorism.

Whichever form of terrorism the Nigerian people are experiencing, truth is the country cannot make any significant progress without reinventing itself by a broadly acceptable instrument for re-engineering its politics, economics, and social integration. Like they always say, those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable. Most likely, Nigeria is getting to that inevitable terminus. The seeming unjustifiable jumbo salary of the country’s federal legislators is unsettling the electorate.

And, the latest addition on the burner is the Zamfara State gold deal. The gold matter is unsettling the youths of the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil and gas region. They gave the Buhari administration an ultimatum to bring the proceeds of the deal on the table and share among the states as usually done with oil resources.

Governor Bello Matawalle said the state government has so far saved 31 kilograms of refined gold as a reserve for the state. A statement by Zailani Bappa, his Special Adviser on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communications, said the move was meant to boost the financial base of the state.

“Already, we have an offer of N5.00 billion from some interested partners to be supplying them with gold bars over a period of time’’, Matawalle revealed, adding, ‘’the gold was wholly mined and refined by our local miners. It is a measure we are taking to ensure that the mineral resources in Zamfara benefit the people.

Matawalle claimed the government will continue to save gold for the state in designated banks, and ensure that the state gets the respect it deserves by having the security needed for any business transaction, pointing out that the gold was purchased by the state government and the idea is also meant to boost the trade in the state.

While the governor recently took some of the gold bars to President Muhammadu Buhari where the president said it was the first time anyone physically showed him the Zamfara gold, Matawalle added, ‘’the situation today is that a few people mine the gold, take it abroad and trade it out there without a single benefit for the people in the state. This is what we want to change.’’

Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, had kicked against the recent sale of gold bar by Governor Matawalle to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), saying the governor has no right to sell the mineral resources that belong to the federal government.

Omo-Agege who spoke during Senate plenary, while contributing to the general debate on 2021 budget, wondered why a state governor will have the audacity to sell gold bar to the apex bank, stressing, the gold found in any state belongs to the federal government, adding that the revenue generated from such mineral resources like gold are to be shared among all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Not too long ago, we saw the governor of Zamfara come before the CBN to present a gold bar worth close to about N5billion. The gold bar was presented for sale to the CBN. Mr. President, our people are beginning to wonder who owns this gold that is being sold to the CBN. They don’t sell oil in any of the Niger Delta states. I am wondering why the governor of a state should be selling gold bar from Zamfara to the CBN. There are two problems with that. We believe that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire country and not to the state government.

‘’That is number one and we should actually look into that. That is an area we really need to develop. There is a lot of revenue that could come from there that will take the burden from these international borrowings.”

Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), clearly states that mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas are exclusively under the control of the federal government. Furthermore, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, which was passed into law on March 16, 2007, to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999 for the purposes of regulating the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria vested the control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria in the state, and prohibits un-authorised exploration or exploitation of minerals.

The Act further states that all lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities shall from the commencement of the Act be acquired by the federal government in accordance with the Land Use Act.

Omo-Agege is canvassing for sustainable peace in the Niger Delta region so that the daily oil output can be realisable. According to him, “for us to be able to achieve the 1.86million barrels per day, certain things must be in place. We must maintain the peace in the Niger Delta region before we can achieve this. Mr. President, when I say this, it begins to sound like a broken record. Every day, for those of us who represent the Niger Delta, we hardly sleep. We are very worried about every concern because these people are the golden eggs that take care of this economy.

“But Mr. President, they are jobless. There is nothing for them to do. It is very important that the youths of these communities are engaged. The only way to engage these youths is for the oil companies, who explore oil in these communities in the Niger Delta that they help in creating jobs for the youths and the only way to do that is to have their business operations headquarters located within the Niger Delta.

“In the absence of this, you will have all the youths participating in this agitation against SARS. The only reason they are in the streets is because there are no jobs to engage them. Once again, I want to appeal that the oil companies doing businesses in this country should relocate their headquarters to the region”.

The Buhari administration is, however, assuring that it will provide an enabling environment for gold mining activities so that Nigeria’s refinery can go into full production to deliver its product by the first quarter of 2021. In addition, it adds that any Nigerian or state government can apply process to the ministry to buy any mineral, especially the acquisition of gold from Zamfara, which is open to all citizens, and foreign investors.

Mines and Steel Development Minister, Olamilekan Adegbite, said this in Abuja that bandits are used to buying the gold at cheap rates, and selling it to purchase guns and ammunition. He also said the gold found in Zamfara belongs to the Federal Government, adding that the governor was taking the right steps in the right direction; and has gotten the narrative right, too.

But, Niger Delta youths on the platforms of Young Democratic Movement (YDM) and South-South Youth Assembly (SSYA) are not persuaded. They want Abuja rise above the “act of impunity” allegedly committed by the Zamfara state government, claiming that the governor has no right to sell the mineral resources that belong to the federal government.

According to them, failure by the federal government to address their demands which also include an upward review of the 13 percent derivation fund paid to the oil-producing states, they will embark on a nationwide protest. “The gold found in any state belongs to the federal government, the revenue generated from such mineral resources like gold are to be shared among all the 36 states and FCT.

“The state governor has no such audacity to sell gold bars to the apex bank worth N5.00 billion. In the Niger Delta, we don’t sell oil. We are surprised that a governor of a state should be selling gold bars from Zamfara to the CBN. Let it be known that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire country and not to the state government.

“These revenues could salvage the nation from the burden of these international borrowings. For the record, Item 39 under the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states that mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas are exclusively under the control of the federal government.

“The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, which was passed into law on March 16, 2007, to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999 for the purposes of regulating the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria vested the control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria in the state, and prohibits unauthorised exploration or exploitation of minerals.

“The Act further stated that all lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities shall from the commencement of the Act be acquired by the federal government in accordance with the Land Use Act. And our question today is: Has the Federal Government acquired all the lands where minerals are found? If yes, why have the states not benefited from proceeds from mining activities on such lands?”

Keseme Idiong of YDM and Victor Thompson of South-South Assembly are maintaining that failure of the Abuja to review the derivation fund from 13 percent upwards, “then it must allow Niger Delta to directly sell its oil just as the recent case of Zamfara gold bar.”

 

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