The Federal Government and its agencies, over the weekend, mounted fresh pressure on the government of Osun State to hand over 27 persons caught in illegal mining of gold and have been in the custody of the state in the last three weeks.
The pressure is coming on the premise that the Osun State Government has no power to detain any illegal miner, as no law in Nigeria donates such power to them under the 1999 Constitution.
The illegal miners, which included 17 Chinese nationals were apprehended in the goldfields of Osun State on May 3, 2020, and detained by the authorities of that state. However, the Federal Government has insisted that it was illegal for Osun State to handle the investigation of the suspects or their prosecution.
Director-General, Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), Dr. Abdulrazaq Garba, who spoke with journalists in Abuja, observed that incidents of illegal mining, especially by foreign nationals has been condoned for too long in Nigeria and there was the need for the operators in the mining sector to play by the game by the rule.
Garba lamented that a lot of revenue has been lost by the government through these illegal activities which have also resulted in a high level of environmental devastation and health hazards in the mining communities.
He said while the arrest of the illegal miners was a step in the right direction, Osun State government ought to hand them over to the Federal Government for prosecution as prescribed by the laws of Nigeria.
“If these foreign nationals are found to have contravened our laws, they must face the full wrath of the law. Don’t forget illegal mining and export of our minerals is an offense; so also is the entry and staying in the country illegally. The laws of the land must be allowed to take its course.”
“Ordinarily, if an illegal miner is arrested by the state government, such a miner ought to be handed over to the Federal Government for prosecution in line with the Minerals and Mining Act 2007 (Chapter 5 – Offences and Penalties) and the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulations (Section 20 – Sanctions).
“Mining can only take place with Federal Permit and permits are obtained after fulfilling the necessary terms.”
Director-General, Nigeria Mining Cadastre Office, Engr Obadiah Nkom, who also corroborated the position of the NGSA, argued that the 1999 Nigeria Constitution, placed Mines and Minerals under the Exclusive legislative list while the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 and its Regulations spell out its operation.