…Advocates States’ Involvement In Licensing
Nsan Ndoma-Neji, Calabar
The Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade has canvassed for the urgent review of the Solid Minerals Act of 2007, which places the exploration and exploitation of solid minerals in the Exclusive Legislative list.
Ayade made the call at the weekend, while exchanging views with the Minister of State for Mines, Solid Minerals Development, Ugochukwu Sampson Ogah, in Calabar, who paid a two-day working visit to the state.
Decrying the subsisting policy where mining licenses are issued to miners without giving an iota of opportunity to the host state to make an input regarding exploration/exploitation of the solid minerals, irrespective of the fact that the solid minerals is found in that state, Ayade condemned such a policy in its entirety, describing the policy as being too draconian for survival of state where such minerals deposits are found.
Ayade said, “If you look at the Mineral Act of 2007, particularly in reference to Section One, it provides for the total appropriation of solid minerals under the purview and control of the Federal Government. Unfortunately, the Land Use Act puts the land as property of the state under the control of the governors. So, the President, as well as the minister, along with the governors must have to sit at a round table and talk. But unfortunately, that has not happened. However, I am happy you are being very proactive by coming for this engagement.
“It is unacceptable for an investor to go to Abuja and get a license to mine in my state without my knowledge and without my input. The investor simply sits with a local community chief and enter into a Community Development Agreement, CDA, which is meant to favour the investor. And so, with as little as dry gin and a little money, the community signs off a great potential, because there is no involvement of the state.
“States are becoming aggressive; states have begun the process of locking the people you give your mining license to that they cannot enter their lands without authorization from the states.”
He therefore, called on the Federal Government to get states involved in the process of issuance of mining license, a development he said will help in reducing the acrimony which usually exist between the host communities and the government.
The Cross-River State governor lauded the minister for finding it worthy to interface with stakeholders of the mining sector, stressing, “Until you get to the point where you sit with the state governors and engage them the way you are doing now, then this disagreement will persist.
“Your visit shows you understand the problem; because the state owns the land and in law, whatever is underneath the land and up to the sky, belongs to the landowners. So, for the Federal Government that exists in the air to be the owners of waterways, owners of anything underneath the ground, is not right.”
Gov. Ayade, while insisting on an urgent review of the policy, further stated, “Maybe it is time for us to take it out of the Exclusive List, maybe it is time for us to take them to the Concurrent List. The Federal Government must realise that the development of a state is a function of the state government. The Federal Government, therefore must focus mainly on economy, security, foreign policy and all that will keep this country as an indivisible entity.”
“My recommendation, therefore, is that you must find a modus operandum that allows you the power of taking advantage of the constitution that is about to be reviewed to say look, even before you come to us to seek license for mining, please go and get approval and clearance from the state government. Until that is done, the direct introduction of the CDA, which enables the investor to deal directly with the community will continue to put the community in danger.”
In his earlier remarks, the minister, who came to Cross River for a two-day working visit also interfaced with stakeholders in the mining sector, commended Governor Ayade for the giant strides recorded in the area of industrialization whereby lives have been transformed saying, “I call it audacity of hope where there is hopelessness.”
The minister called for the state governor’s support “in accelerating the development of the huge mineral deposits found in the state.”
He said, “I understand in Cross River you have minerals like barite, lead, zinc, iron ore, granite manganese, etc. You have over 33 solid minerals. Even some nations in Africa do not have as many minerals as Cross River has got. This shows that the state is blessed.”
According to the minister part of the reasons for his visit to the state is to help “to sensitize mine operators, members of the host communities and other mining stakeholders to ensure mining activities are conducted in a safe efficient, environmental friendly manner, consistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007.”