The Nigerian Mining Association has demanded the return of over N700 billion which the federal government was said to have diverted to uses other than the development of mineral resources they were meant to for.
About a week ago, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts Senator Ahmed Lawan raised alarm on the diversion of over N700 billion meant for the development of the solid mineral sector to other uses. About N44 billion was reported missing in the process.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Abuja, President of the Miners Association of Nigeria Alhaji Sani Shehu said the missing funds must be found and returned to the treasury to be channelled for the purpose it was meant.
He lamented the "discrimination in budgetary allocations to the solid mineral sector in favour of other non-oil sectors."
According to Shehu, in the 2012 budget, N289.77 billion went to agric, N39 million was allocated to water resources while solid minerals got a paltry N14.90 billion.
He said the neglect of the sector since the oil boom era is largely to blame for the social and economic woes, including the current security crises in the country.
For instance, he said, some of the states endowed with mineral resources in the country such as Plateau, Kaduna, Zamfara, Yobe and Borno "are at the centre of our security challenges."
The group noted that more than the non-oil sector, solid mineral sector has great potential "to provide raw material for industries, export minerals to earn foreign currencies and above all provide massive employment for Nigerians."
The group prayed President Goodluck Jonathan to direct the immediate take off of the Solid Mineral Development Fund and all money in the natural resource fund should be released to the sector as take off grant as well as put up a legal framework by issuing the regulations for the administration and management of the fund.
Alhaji Shehu said: "The developmental aspirations of the country, such as the need to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, poverty alleviation, employment generation, industrialization and power generation have been held in abeyance due to the long neglect of critical minerals resources sector."