Senate has been told that owners of private Jets in the country were responsible for the very high cases of illegal smuggling of Gold from the country. Disclosing this in Abuja at an investigative hearing on $9billion annual loss to illegal mining and smuggling of Gold, organised by the Senator Tanko Al- Makura, All Progressives Congress, APC, Nasarawa South led Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines , Steel Development and Metallurgy, Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr.Uche Ogah, alleged that owners of private Jets were masterminds of illegal mining in Nigeria as they are collaborators. Ogar who lamented the rate of illegal mining in the country, said that all efforts to end the menace have failed because according to the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS has no powers to check private Jets, adding that illegal mining in Nigeria started far back in the early 1980s as a result of the indiginization policy of the military regime in the late 1970s.
Ogah who called for death sentence as punishment for offenders, said, “Gold Smuggling in Nigeria are often done using Private Jets , the very reason why Private Jets ownership and operations , need to be streamlined in the country.” The Minister stressed that the menace was prompted by the inability of indigenous workers to obtain mineral titles and required technology for mining used by the British miners before the indigenisation Policy. Ogar noted that Gold Smuggling and Illegal Mining which are robbing the country of billions of dollars on yearly basis thrive due to series of factors like connivance of security agencies with the offenders, host communities collaboration , low level of application of technology and negative mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria. The Minister said, ” For these crimes to be fought decisively , potent punitive measure like capital punishment, need to be legally provided for.”
Ogar who noted that the menace can be tackled proactively through establishment of Mines Police , Special Court or Tribunals to try offenders , adequate funding for the Ministry and positive mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria, said, “The main Crux of the matter is for us to be Nigerian by seeing ourselves as Nigerians in all circumstances.
“Doing this , will make us see mineral resources in our communities as collective wealth of all Nigerians that must not be illegally explored by anybody within or from outside the country.” Corroborating the Minister, a member of the Committee, Senator Francis Fadaunsi, who alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) made smuggling so easy in Nigeria, said that the Apex bank facilitates the menace, through its lopsided and exclusive policy on FOREX availability to Nigerians. Senator Fadaunsi said, ” Gold Smuggling and Illegal Mining are carried out by political elites and not just the poor masses at the illegal mining sites.
“Categories of Nigerians at the top from Political office holders , Politicians , Traditional Rulers , top security officers etc , are involved in Gold Smuggling and Illegal Mining in one way or the other. Poor ones did it on behalf of the big ones “, he said. In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the Committee , Senator Tanko Al- Makura ( APC Nasarawa South) noted that for thorough investigation of the menace and required way out, heads of relevant government agencies , will be summoned for robust discussions. According to him, the agencies are: the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), Nigeria Customs Service ( NCS) , Nigeria Immigration Service ( NIS), Nigeria Police , Department of State Services ( DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority ( NPA).