Illegal miners in the country have been warned to put an end to their illegal activities as the Federal Government is now more than ever, ready to invoke the extant laws to bring them to justice in its bid to diversify the economy.
The newly appointed Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who gave the warning yesterday, said President Muhammadu Buhari had given a marching order to rid the sector of illegal mining and generate more revenue into the nation’s coffers.
Speaking with reporters in his hometown, Isan Ekiti in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, Fayemi said the Mining and Mineral Act 2007 had provided the government the legal weapon to prosecute illegal miners and saboteurs.
The former Ekiti State governor said the nation had the potential to become a global leading player in the sector with 44 key minerals, which, he said could be found in about 350 locations in the 36 states of the federation.
He identified poor management of the sector in the last 55 years of independence as the reason why Nigeria had not gotten enough return in terms of foreign exchange, investment and job opportunities.
The minister explained that solid minerals and agriculture were key to President Buhari’s plan to expand the nation’s income stream and provide employment opportunities.
He added that nothing would be spared to restore vibrancy to the sector.
Fayemi said: “President Buhari came into government with strong integrity. And we won’t allow the integrity quotient to reduce. So, whoever perpetrates illegality in the sector must start packing his load.
“We are ready to tackle the cartels in the sector and those who think they can continue will face the maximum wrath of the law.
“If you glean through what President Buhari said when he came into power, every comment is punctuated with preference for solid minerals and agriculture as areas of interest in his efforts to diversify the economy. So, Mr. President has put me in his area of interest and I thank him for reposing confidence in me”.
He said the ministry is blessed with experts in geophysics, mineral resources, geology, metallurgical and material engineering, mineral engineering among others to translate the dream to reality.
“Though, I may not be an expert in mineral resources management, but having superintended over every sector as a governor, I think I have the experience.
“The task is not even about expertise, but service. I should be able to work with these experts to bring about the needed change in the sector.
“Nigeria used to be a centre of excellence in solid minerals, particularly in Tin and Coal since 1903; that was before the First World War, when petrol came, we abandoned production of these two minerals. But we have come to realize our mistake.
“We have coal in Enugu, diamond in Nasarawa, tin and columbite in Plateau and many other states. There is no state without a mineral. So, we have a lot of potential to tap and this we shall achieve”, Fayemi said.