Don’t Abandon Nigeria Solid Minerals Development, Miners tell FG

The economic impact of the COVID -19 pandemic has eroded progress recorded in the mining sector and taken Nigerian miners backwards, according to the Miners Association of Nigeria.

President of MAN, the umbrella body of Nigerian miners, Alhaji Kabir Mohammed, told our correspondent that there were fears that ‎the Federal Government would no longer continue with recent interventions in the sector.

The Federal Government had in recent times initiated a number of programmes aimed at building the capacity of Nigerian miners in a bid to reposition the sector as a major source of revenue for the country.

The MAN president expressed concern that the pandemic might take the government’s attention to other areas.

Noting that the country’s mining sector was going through a “very critical period”, Mohammed expressed hopes that the government would still go ahead with the intervention programmes.

He said, “Just like the way it affected other sectors, the pandemic has had a severe impact on the Nigerian mining sector. It has taken us (miners) backwards.

“Before the outbreak of the disease, there were indications that the Federal Government would be pumping in funds and implementing initiatives to support the sector but from what is happening now the government is only interested in mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic.

”We hope the Federal Government will still sustain the tempo in trying to resuscitate the sector because in the absence of adequate revenue from oil, solid minerals could be a major source of revenue.”

However, Mohammed faulted what he described as the exclusion of MAN from the implementation of the Federal Government’s plan to formalise Nigerian artisanal miners.

The formalisation programme, which involves registering individual miners and organising them into cooperative societies, was among a number of schemes initiated by the government to boost the capacity of the local mining sector.

The process for the formalisation of the artisanal miners had commenced with the inauguration of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative biometric exercise in Kebbi State on February 22.

PAGMI is a support programme for Nigerian gold miners and Kebbi and Osun were selected as pilot states for the registration and enrolment of the first batch of artisanal miners.

However, Mohammed told our correspondent that although the formalisation plan was initiated by the miners association, the Federal Government had not engaged or consulted them on its implementation.

He warned that the programme might not succeed if the association was left out.

Mohammed said, “The formalisation process cannot be successful if the operators are not involved – the association has not been brought into the picture. We are the artisanal miners; we are the ones that are to be formalised and registered; it is the association that should have the register of all miners.

“When we came on board, we initiated the plan for the formalisation of artisanal miners in order to improve their capacity but if the government now decides to go about doing it without us, then it is not in order.

“It is the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development that is implementing it and what we expect is that they will bring us in to work with their consultants. Most of these consultants are not even in the country. Besides, how can government officials sit down in Abuja and begin to formalise and register people (miners) that are in the bush?”

The MAN president also urged the Federal Government to see the fall in oil price as a wake-up call to get serious with its much publicised plan to diversify the economy.

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