By Henry Odeh
The federal government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Mines And Steel, Ibadan Zonal Office in partnership with the Oyo state government through the Oyo state Mineral Resources Development Agency has a conducted an all important one day sensitization workshop in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Thursday, for miners, dealers, and other operators in the gemstone market.
The sensitization exercise which held at Ojoo area of Ibadan, acclaimed to be the largest gemstone market in Nigeria, was designed to promote mutual understanding between government and operators in the business as well as to communicate government position on non compliance with stipulated regulation policies by both governments at both state and federal levels.
The Ibadan Zonal Mines Officer of the federal ministry of mines and steel, Engr Donatus Umaru in his speech stated that the present federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari placed high premium on solid mineral industry and as a result is making frantic efforts towards making it a strong and economically viable industry capable of providing high revenue for the country.
Engr Umaru said that the days of illegal mining is over as the federal government is set to deal decisively with anyone operating in mining, trading or exploration activities without procuring necessary permits from the government.
He said that the workshop which held at Ojoo area of Ibadan and has been adjudged to be the largest gemstone market in Nigeria was necessitated by the fact that most players and operators may not turn up because of the general notion of ‘it is business as usual syndrom’ otherwise it would have held within the premises of the federal secretariat in Ibadan.
He stressed the need for synergy and mutual cooperation between operators in the gemstone market and government adding that federal government is not interested in wielding the big stick on anyone or group of people for engaging in legitimate business within the ambient of the law but non compliance with government policies and directives would create room for such eventualities.
He added that the sensitization exercise was designed to precede enforcement as ignorance will no longer be tenable before the law with regards to illegal mining and trading activities without necessary permits.
The representative of Oyo state government at the event, Mr. Abiodun Oni who is the executive chairman of Oyo State mineral resources development agency in company of other top officials of the agency in his remark, stated that the power to issue licences is exclusively in the purview of the federal government and nothing could be done to upturn that but noted that the state has legal purview on coverage of the environment where mining and exploration of the solid mineral resources take place because environmental degradation has been a major challenge the Oyo state government under the leadership of governor Seyi Makinde has had to deal with in respect of mining and exploration activities.
He said that the health and safety of the citizens and residents in the state are responsibilities of the state government which it is not taking likely as shown in its blueprint and policies for sustainable economic development for Oyo state.
Mr Oni added that there are quite a lot of loopholes in the entire process starting from mining, trading, and exportation of gemstones by those who try to shortchange government at both levels by hiding under the pretext of processing required papers for such activities but he expressed optimism that the sensitization exercise would avail every operators the needed guidelines to do the needful in order not to fall into the net of the law because the state government gets its adequate percentage when federal government is adequately paid its dues.
Representative of the Department of State Services (DSS) Mr Martins Tokunbo, in his submission commended the federal ministry of mines and steel for the workshop and large turn out by operators of solid minerals in the state.
He expressed optimism in the fact that the large turn out would translate to high compliance with government directives in order to make things easier for everyone adding that the federal government is determined to give the industry the needed attention by eradicating illegal miners and traders noting that Nigeria has been facing different security challenges as a result of criminal elements coming into the country under the guise of miners and traders in gemstones.
He stated further that it is no longer business as usual with illegal miners and their collaborators in Nigeria stressing that operators should avail themselves of the several lofty initiatives by federal government such as cooperative mining for the purpose of ease of doing business and access to funds noting that illegal mining has done the country more harm than good in term of revenue loss and security challenges.
Some of the participants who spoke during the event expressed mixed reactions stressing that as much as they were happy with such sensitization workshop which has further exposed them to other areas of ignorance, the federal government must create a level playing ground by showing more commitments to operators in terms of easy access to funds and removal of bureaucratic bottlenecks in trying to procure necessary permits in order to grow the industry rather than just been interested in revenue generation which according to them has not yielded positive results.