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How state governments impede mining operations

By Kehinde Olatunji
15 September 2020   |   3:12 am
Nigeria is gifted with large quantities of solid minerals across virtually every state of the federation. Like oil and gas, solid minerals are essential to the country’s development due to their manifold utility. Thus, state governments have a vital role to play if governance in the mining sector will improve and subsequently have a positive…

A mining site.

Nigeria is gifted with large quantities of solid minerals across virtually every state of the federation. Like oil and gas, solid minerals are essential to the country’s development due to their manifold utility.

Thus, state governments have a vital role to play if governance in the mining sector will improve and subsequently have a positive impact on the development of their respective states.

The Nigerian Constitution gives the Federal Government control of all-natural resources, meaning that there is no private ownership of solid minerals in Nigeria.

However, states, where the resources are domiciled, cannot be aloof in ensuring smooth mining operations, safety and guarantee adequate provisions for the host communities.

Sometimes, governments might want to cross their boundaries, like what happened in Ebonyi State where it allegedly closed down Greenfield Metals Ltd., a mining company operating in Ishiagu, Ivo Local Government over alleged failure to pay mineral revenue to the state.

Against this backdrop, a former President, Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN), Sani Shehu, said only the federal government had statutory powers to sanction, illegal or unlicensed mining operations through the Federal Ministry of Mine and Steels Development.

According to him, Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution put “Mining sector under the Exclusive List of the Nigerian Constitution, and what this means is that only the Federal Government can grant mining licenses, collect revenue, monitor and regulate mining operations.”

Meanwhile, the National President of MAN, Kabiru Mohammed, told The Guardian that state governments’ roles had not been very encouraging in recent times, owing to ignorance regarding the gains in the sector.

He said: “This lack of seriousness could be attributed to factors like lack of awareness of the economic benefits of solid minerals, which could generate high revenue. Also, the states are not helping matters when it comes to accommodating miners by giving them steep conditions and multiple taxes.

“They claim to own the lands while the Federal Government owns the minerals, so this conflicting response is detrimental to smooth mining activities in the various states.

“However, there’s a sign of seriousness, and awareness regarding the importance of mining of solid minerals from the states. We are now witnessing more readiness to collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Mines, foreign partners, and investors by state governments to harness the rich mineral resources in states.”

Speaking at a Webinar, Global Rights Executive Director, Ms. Abiodun Baiyewu, said the Minerals Act provides a platform for effective participation by state governments in mining sector affairs through the establishment of a Mineral Resources and Environmental Committee (MIREMCO), in each state.

She added that the failure of some states to push for the activation of this advisory committee contributed to poor governance of the sector.

“A recurring complaint by most state governments has been the lack of funding for MIREMCO activities. Investing a seed fund to support MIREMCO activities should be seen by these state governments as an investment which will yield revenue and development dividends for their communities.”

Baiyewu urged the states to take steps to activate the MIREMCO in their respective jurisdictions with a view to realising the objectives for which they were designed, and in the interest of the people, they govern.

She noted that while mining fell within the purview of the Federal Government, state governments could fulfill their human rights obligations to host communities by ensuring that the preconditions to commencement of mining activities within their domain, such as environmental impact assessment, and environmental management plans were complied with.

“While they have no direct supervisory rights over these, they may advise the supervising ministries in this regard. They could further protect host communities by ensuring that they put in place a strong environmental monitoring mechanism housed within their respective Ministries of Environment, which could coordinate efforts with the necessary federal agencies or bodies empowered under the Minerals and Mining Act, to ensure the safeguard of the environment.”

She added that states should explore the possibility of devising a State Solid Minerals Information Management System (SSMIMS), to collate information on licensed miners, employees of mineral title holders or exploration licence holders, approved mineral title area, royalties paid, details of corporate social responsibility initiatives, and other relevant information.

Baiyewu argued that this would help deal with the menace of illegal mining, ensure transparency in revenue, accountability in the volumes of resources mined, protect the interest of host communities, and overall, promote better governance of the sector.

She noted that “States can contribute to the growth and effective functioning of the mining sector by partnering with the federal government to ensure occupational safety, adopting security measures, and through the provision of infrastructure in host mining communities.

“State governments in mineral-rich areas will do well to develop plans. These state development plans are the blueprints, which take into cognizance the development aspirations of the state alongside the prospects and challenges of mining activities. A state and community development plan will strengthen and inform community development agreements to be reached with mining companies.”

Baiyewu added that state governments can play a role in securing the interest of host communities by ensuring that communities are able to negotiate Community Development Agreements (CDAs) with the technical, legal and financial assistance necessary to give free, informed, and democratic consents to agreements. They are also to ensure effective implementation and monitoring of the CDAs required in the Minerals and Mining Act.

She continued: “Every mineral title area falls within a particular local government. Local governments are also closer to mining host communities. Accordingly, they have an important role to play in monitoring activities within their jurisdiction amongst other things. The state governments should ensure that the local governments play active roles and contribute their quota to the growth of the sector.

“State governments can also play an important role by systematically sensitising host communities on mining developments, their rights as provided for in the solid minerals framework, and avenues for communal development through proposed projects.”

Baiyewu noted that states could promote the security of host communities by providing infrastructure, thereby creating enabling environments to engender development without negatively impacting host community resources.

“State governments can also contribute to improving transparency and accountability in the sector through the provision of detailed information on revenues accruing to them from the sector and expenditures made by them.”

Similarly, Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah, urged the state governments to support MIREMCO programmes, as it would enhance revenue generation from mining operations.