The Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, has alleged that owners of private jets in the country are responsible for the high cases of illegal smuggling of gold outside the shores of Nigeria.
Ogah made the disclosure to the Senate on Tuesday in Abuja at an investigative hearing on $9 billion annual loss to illegal mining and smuggling of gold.
Speaking at the hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Ogah alleged that owners of private jets are masterminds of illegal mining in Nigeria.
Ogar, who lamented the rate of illegal mining in the country, said all efforts to end the menace have failed because according to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), it has no powers to check private jets.
He added that illegal mining in Nigeria started in the early 1980s as a result of the indigenisation policy of the military regime in the late 1970s.
He suggested death penalty as punishment for offenders, saying, “Gold smuggling in Nigeria is often done using private jets, the very reason private jets ownership and operations need to be streamlined in the country.”
SaharaReporters had earlier reported that Ogah accused the Godwin Emefiele-led Central Bank of Nigeria of not contributing to his success as a minister after abandoning the steel and mining sector.
The minister’s attack came following speculations that the Abia State-born politician is one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointees struggling hard to find their feet in the administration.
He further alleged that nothing is being done by the apex bank to develop the sector, adding that more investment is required in the area of research to develop the sector.
The public hearing was designed to get the inputs of stakeholders on the preparations of four bills and for an investigative motion for the solid minerals sector.
The bills included the Nigerian Minerals Development Corporation Establishment Bill 2021 and Solid Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission Establishment Bill 2021.
Others also were the Institute of Bitumen Management Establishment Bill 2021, Explosive Act 1964 Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2021 and the urgent need to investigate the loss of 9 billion dollars annually, due to illegal mining and smuggling of gold.
He said, “Equally, we need to ask the Ministry of Finance to speed up the export policy on solid minerals because that is the only way to have operators into the sector.”
On the bill for the establishment of the Nigerian Mineral Development Commission (NMDC), Ogah said he would want an enlargement of the minerals listed there.
He said, “Let us not limit ourselves to only seven minerals because we have other minerals that are needed for industrial revolution.
“We must look at how to fast track development of these mineral resources, and so we must look at the relationship between the ministry and the state governments.
“States must be ready to be involved in driving the production of mineral resources, not just talking about the resources been cited in the states. States should work toward getting institutions to help drive the development of solid minerals resources in their states.
“We need to harmonise all the issues, so we could have a clear direction for the growth of the sector.”