THE Federal Government has commenced moves aimed at making it an offence for anyone to take unprocessed minerals out of the country.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this in Lagos on Thursday at a meeting with stakeholders in the mining sector.
The meeting was attended by representatives of local and international mining outfits, officials of federal, states and local governments, financial institutions, manufacturing companies, professional bodies, community organisations, security agencies and the civil society.
Dr Fayemi noted that the government was aware of the activities of some foreign nationals who take out of the country unprocessed minerals though illegal routes and thereby the country of the revenue accruing to it through its vast mineral endowment.
The minister agreed with the stakeholders at the meeting that the activities of the foreigners had robbed the youth of the country of massive job opportunities in the sector.
He said the ministry was working with the Nigeria Customs Service and other relevant security agencies to make it illegal for anyone to take out unprocessed minerals.
Fayemi said the ministry’s current focus was to ensure that operators set up plants in the country and process the minerals before exporting the finished product.
“Taking out unprocessed minerals under any guise is unacceptable and we have taken a firm position on this.
“We will make it difficult for anybody to take out unprocessed minerals. We are working with the Customs and other relevant security agencies to put an end to this.
“We will support and encourage operators to set up plants, process the minerals here and you can then export it.
The minister added that the economic diversification and employment generation could only be realised with operators cooperating with government on the mining policy.
The minister said the government was taking the security of mines more seriously, adding that a special task force had been put in place to check nefarious activities in mining sites and ensure compliance with environmental and security regulations.
He announced that the Nigerian Police has responded to the security issue with the establishment of Mines Division in all its state commands.
The Mine Police, which, according to the minister, was structured after the Mine Police, which was active in the 60’s and 70’s, would help to halt criminal activities in the sector.
Noting that the country has one of the best mining laws, Fayemi said enforcement had always been a challenge.
He said many criminal-minded individuals had taken advantage of the poor enforcement to enrich themselves at the expense of the country.
Fayemi, who lauded the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for the Mine Police initiative, urged operators in the country to comply with regulations guiding the mining sector as contained in the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.