Kogi State Commissioner for Solid Minerals and Natural Resources, Mr. Abubakar Basir Gegu, in this interview by YEKINI JIMOH, bares his mind on issues of revenue generation in the mining sector and others. Excerpts:
Sir, we have cases of illegal mining all over the country. What is Kogi State doing to address the challenges posed by illegal miners?
Let me speak about security generally. Before the coming of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as the governor of Kogi State, this state was badly positioned in terms of criminality. The state was synonymous with criminal activities and when his government came on board, he made that a top priority. His primary constitutional role is to protect life and property of the people and he has never relented in his efforts. With his zeal, he has been able to bring the issue of insecurity to the barest minimum. Previously, there were cases of illegal miners and they were in their numbers. However, as I speak with you now, there are no illegal mining activities going on in Kogi State. What we did as a ministry was to regroup those people we termed as illegal miners and convert them to artisanal miners. When they become artisanal miners, they work for the state. Not directly, but through them, you can generate revenue. You get tax from them, so they are indirectly working for the state. I think this is a plus for the state and the country.
You can see that the revenue loopholes of the past were thereby closed. It is the handiwork of the governor. His doggedness and will power propelled us with courage to key into his agenda and help to actualise his dream. He wouldn’t like to have what is happening in the core Northern states like Zamfara, where illegal mining activities have attracted banditry, kidnapping and all sorts of crimes. So in this state, we tried all our best to see that we are not pushing them away but regroup them to become artisanal miners to give them sense of belonging. The state government is currently helping some of the groups with facilities such as finance, machinery and other implements for mining activities. With that, they commenced operation and are paying back at flexible period. That is what we have done so far to curb the issue of illegal mining in the state.
What is your assessment of recent revilidation and registration exercise in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in your area?
The APC as a party and platform is one of the best avenues I have ever engaged in. Interestingly, APC is not the first party I have joined. However, right now I have seen the light in APC. I have seen sincerity in APC and I have also seen fairness, justice and equity in the party. APC is equally lucky to have the crop of leaders like the acting chairman, Mai Mala Buni, the Governor of Yobe State. Also Governor Bello, who is very straight forward in thinking and brilliant in exercising his right as citizen of the country. He has ensured that the exercise went smoothly. With the caliber of people in APC, I think the party will get it better than in 2015. It is when you are in the system that you can ask for what belongs to you. So, if you are not part of APC you cannot be talking of what belongs to Mr. A or B. Therefore, we must belong to the party and attract the benefits to our people. In my constituency, our efforts are yielding positive results. A lot of people are rushing to the party. The opportunity given to the youths in the state snowballed into youths across the country demanding for his interest in the next presidential election.
Kogi State no doubt is blessed with natural resources. As a Commissioner in the state, what innovations are you bringing in to tap the vast resources for the benefit of the state and its people?
I thank the governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello for creating the Ministry of Solid Minerals in Kogi State. Everyone around the world is diversifying, so Nigeria is not left out and Kogi State is not left behind as well. The vision of Governor Yahaya Bello to put Kogi State on the world map is what we are trying to help him to achieve or actualize. Although he has done well in his first tenure, the second tenure is to reposition the state, economic wise and infrastructural wise. Talking about the issue of economic development, there is need to develop the solid mineral sector. We came on board, January 2020 and as a leader of the ministry, we are able to tell the world about the solid mineral resources that Kogi State is endowed with. The one we can see physically, the one we are tapping and those yet untapped. There are also other minerals not known to the larger society; that is, the world. As I speak with you right now, we have new discoveries. The likes of pinnate are found in Kogi State, in Kogi Local Government area in particular. Governor Bello has been striving hard to make sure that whatever we need to develop the sector faster is made available to us. You can see that a lot of investments have taken place in the solid minerals sector. Investors from China, Australia and South Africa are trooping in because of the ingenuity of the government and the seriousness of the government to reposition the state through the Solid Minerals Ministry.
Investors know that when they come to Kogi State, any mineral highlighted to them from us is genuine. They will get it not just on paper, but physically. We have a lot of them, such as gold, coal, limestone, iron ore and a host of others. Recently, the Federal Government expressed the desire to establish a gold processing centre for the North Central. They have looked at where they can get the specific mineral in abundance. Out of the six North Central States, Kogi is the only state that has the capacity in terms of this minerals in question , in terms of manpower, in terms of other facilities which the state government led by Alhaji Yahaya Bello has provided for smooth take off. He has provided two hectare of land, transformer, roads, water for the site and so on. The state government has given the opportunity for the establishment to come quickly. By the grace of God, by the end of June this year, Kogi State will be commissioning one of the largest Gold Processing Centre in Mopamuro Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Still on politics, Governor Bello has attracted so many eminent personalities in the country on his presidential ambition. Sir how would you rate his chances of emerging victoriously?
Governor Bello is a candidate to beat in 2023. I don’t think there is anybody who has his pedigree in ruling this nation as far as I am concerned. His chances are very bright because what Nigeria needs is how to secure the nation first. Whoever can secure the nation has a brighter chance of emerging victorious in 2023. If you look at Governor Yahaya Bello and his style of leadership in Kogi State, you would definitely agree with me that he has the capacity to rule the nation. Kogi State is a replica of Nigeria as a whole. We have multiple languages, religion, ethnic groups and Governor Bello managed to unify all despite the diversities and differences. What we did was to recognise the position of the state as the number one priority irrespective of where you are coming from, religion or ethnic background. So, if he can secure the state and unify the multi ethnic groups in the state, I think he can definitely replicate that at the national level. His chances are very bright.
I have seen so many people, all past leaders especially President Olusegun Obasanjo, the likes of Abdulsalam Abubarkar, Ibrahim Babangida, General Yakubu Gowon rtd and the host of others have given him their blessings. The agitation is not between North and South or which ethnic groups deserve the exalted position. We need someone who doesn›t care whether you are from the North or South to rule the nation. We need someone with the capacity and doggedness to move the nation forward. Look at the issue of Covid-19, Governor Bello stood up as a unique individual, telling us the politics in Covid 19. Whatever position he holds today, in two to six days, you will see that the Western world will say the same thing. Interestingly however, as he is saying it in the country, some people never believed him. When he said the people should “open their eyes” before taking the vaccine, people were not listening, but today some countries have banned some vaccines meant for the prevention of Covid 19 due to casualties recorded during the clinical trials and vaccination of the people. Bello is a leader with sincerity of purpose, a leader with milk of human kindness, a leader who wants the best for his people. I think his chances of becoming the president are very bright.
Between now and 2023, what and what do you think you would have achieved for the people of Kogi State?
Employment opportunities, I will like to start from there. The ministry itself is capable of employing more than 5,000 youths. As I speak with you right now, the artisanal miners that are formerly called illegal miners are about 3,000 across board. We have converted them to be genuine miners. So we have more than 3000 youths engaged already. So the issues of employment, one way or the other is solved. By the time we inject additional 2000 youths to the sector from now till the end of 2021, we should have close to 5000 youths working in the mining sector. With that, the issue of employment is settled to some extent. Revenue generation is another aspect we are looking forward to. By the end of 2022, I think the state would not be dependable on the Federal Allocation. We know what we are doing and what we have put in place. That is why we have opened the sector to investors who have the means to assist in moving the sector forward. The governor has given the enabling environment, free security, accommodation, and so on. With that, we expect the very best in the mining sector. So by the end of 2022, the mining sector would have become the cash cow of Kogi State. By the grace of God, Kogi State would not be depending on allocation from the Federal Government.
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