31 July 2013

Nigeria: Why Chinese, Indians Don't Respect Nigerian Mining Laws

Sunday Ekosin is the National President, National Association of Progressive Miners, Nigeria. He has been operating in the mining industry for more than two decades. In this interview, he shares experiences in the business and ways to turn the comatose mining sector to major foreign exchange earner for the country.

What impact has Progressive Miners Association made on the mining industry since its birth in 2009?

The Progressive Miners Association is the bona fide umbrella body of all indigenous miners in Nigeria. This association, which started in 2009, was established with a clear philosophy of empowering miners through mining renaissance. Essentially, the lack of credible mining association that is wholly devoted to caring for the miners in Nigeria brought about PMEA being established in response to the need for a collective lobbying organization that would articulate the interests of indigenous miners. To a great extent, we have vigorously pursued these sets of objectives.

Some countries rely on mining as a means of survival but in Nigeria it is not so, despite the potentials, why?

After decades of mining operations in Nigeria, it is indeed a shame that we have still not been able to use mining as a diversifying agent in our economic transformation. Huge benefits deliverable from mining are yet untapped, and major stakeholders like me are very pained.

However, it is critical that we build a sustainable and well respected industry made up of globally competitive mining and associated businesses. This only comes if we earn this respect and support. To achieve this, we need to achieve development of small and medium scale indigenous mining sites and plants across the entire country based on a developed mining module such that will ensure health, safety and environment practices that ensure our people remain safe. Mining activity should be supported by enforceable regulations and the need to have patriots to develop a well-thought-out community engagement, delivering operations that exist with the support of, and benefit from mining activities in a sustainable manner, as well as strong stakeholder relationships to ensure rapid sustainable development of this sector. Currently, the frosty relationship that exist amongst us leaves so much to be desired.

Could these be the reasons you have consistently insisted on a Standing Presidential Committee on mining?

Oh yes, a presidential committee with clearly, well thought-out deliverables for both immediate and long term benefits. Among these, is the creation of 2million direct jobs, positive engagement of our teaming youth in mining development, establishing privately operated small mines and plants across the six-geo-political zones of this country, ensuring that our mining licenses are valuable nationally and internationally through carefully rejuvenation of license certifications etc. Mining remains a major employer in many communities and provides economic benefits.

It means that the rural communities where these mines operate will attract developments accrued by mining activities in good roads, clinics, bursaries and rural development projects, giving communities the power to create their own destiny. This will also contribute towards the alleviation of government dependency. The Presidential Committee will equally focus attention on economic development in grassroots empowerment and upliftment, hence addressing the stagnation of development initiatives that sometimes emerge because of logistics and bureaucratic challenges in government.

What is responsible for complaints of mining licences revocation and re-assignment at the Mining Cadastre Office by your members?

As at this very moment, the only law in Nigeria, regulating the operation of the mining Cadastre Office is the Minerals and Mining Act 2007, to operate outside of this Act is to operate illegally.

The provisions of the law on the revocation of licences are very clear, Part II of the minerals and mining Act 2007. So sections 11 to 14 states and I quote "A mineral title shall become liable to revocation where the holder thereof has failed to pay the prescribed fees.

In case of default of payment of the annual service fee due to the Mining Process for Cadastre Office, the Mining Cadastre Office shall give a thirty-day written default Revocation notice to the defaulting party and, if payment is not effected during that period, the Mineral Mining Cadastre Office shall record the default and revoke the mineral title. The amount of the fees payable under section 10, Administration and Determination modalities for their payment shall be determined in the regulations issued by the minister. Any notice required to be sent by the Mining Cadastre Office to an applicant, notice to for, or holder of a mineral title shall be sent by courier service or registered Mail to Applicant. The last known address in Nigeria of the mineral title holder or given in person to an authorized representative of the applicant or holder of the mineral title in Nigeria or published in the gazette. The notice shall for all purpose be sufficient notice of the subject matter of the applicant for or holder of a mineral title."

The law specifies that a title holder be officially notified in writing and by registered mail or by courier, given thirty days within which to rectify any query raised in connection with a title. After all these might have been exhausted and the title holder still fails in his obligation, the final stage is to gazette the defaulter before final revocation.

The reasons for this long procedure are to avoid miscarriage of justice in minerals title administration. Unfortunately, the processes and procedures are daily being abused and circumvented. The issuance and revocation are done in violation of the ACT, hence all these protests, litigations and hues and cries. The sad situation is that for any mineral title revoked, all that is required in Nigeria to make newspaper publications, not minding the damages such action might have on the original title holders in terms of time and money spent in reconnaissance, community development project executed, cost of title acquisition and goodwill.

No matter the threat to my life as a person, by the uninformed who are uncomfortable with my advocacy for the right thing to be done in the mining sector in Nigeria and all the name calling, maligning and exclusion from my legitimate rights, I have resolved to stand for truth, equity and justice and to tell all agencies of government saddled with the responsibilities of regulating this sector to stand up to their responsibilities. As a leader, I must stand in defense of my people.

Too many things are going wrong in the Nigerian mining sector, hence the sector remains undeveloped in spite of the huge potential that exist in this sector. Yet this is the sector that holds the key to Nigeria's economic diversification and the earlier Mr. President steps in to salvage what is remaining of this sector, the better for us and the generation coming after us.

What is the National Assembly doing to address the abnormality in the administration of the mining Act?

Frankly speaking, the kind of proactive and pro-people initiatives known of the House of Representative in particular in this seventh Assembly is yet to reverberate in the oversight responsibilities of the National Assembly. We have worked with the Committee very closely at the House of Representative, seen some flashes but we are very convinced that a large proportion of the committee are great patriots.

You have been vocal against Chinese and Indian investors in Nigerian mining industry, why?

With over two decades in this industry, coupled with my leadership credentials in the mining landscape, I am privileged with facts regarding these so called investors. Their foray into the Nigerian mining industry is cashing into the disorganized and government neglected sector to rip as much before this sector ever gets organized with stronger political will.

These so called investors are here to ravage our natural resources and then exit - leaving an underdeveloped country behind. They do not recognize the critical discipline of global mining transformation policies - especially in underdeveloped countries. They do not invest in the development of this sector by building equity participation, human resource development, beneficiation and environmental awareness programs etc.

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