President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, lamented that Nigeria lost about $3 billion to illegal smuggling of gold between 2012 and 2018.
President Buhari also said that improved gold mining operations in the country will generate about 250,000 jobs and over $500 million annually in royalties and taxes to the Federal Government.
President Buhari disclosed this at the official presentation of locally mined gold bars by the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, PAGMDI, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
President Buhari in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, reaffirmed his administration's commitment to establishing gold refineries in Nigeria.
He said the laudable initiative would support efforts at creation of jobs for Nigerians, diversifying the revenue base, and improving foreign exchange reserves.
According to the statement, "Reiterating the determination of the Federal Government to combat illegal mining activities, the President expressed concern that Nigeria lost close to $3b from 2012 - 2018 due to illegal smuggling of gold.
"With the implementation of the PAGDMI scheme which will result in the set-up of accredited gold buying centres across key mining areas, artisanal miners and SMEs engaged in mining will be able to capture the value of their work.
"These operations will help in diversifying our revenue base. The sale of gold by artisanal miners and SMEs at accredited centres will help the government in realizing royalties and taxes from the sale of these assets.
"These developments will also help in improving our foreign reserves by enabling the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase the amount of gold in its reserves.
"These gold assets which will be purchased in Naira, will not only help to bolster our international reserves, it will also provide a hedge against inflation and other economic volatilities associated with foreign currencies that are held in our reserves."
President Buhari noted that in addition to the potential revenue gains that will occur from mining operations, efforts are being made to enable the setting up of gold refineries in Nigeria.
He expressed optimism that these measures would lead to the creation of additional job opportunities across the gold value chain and also help the nation capture the additional value created from the gold refining process.
On environmental degradation, he pledged that the Government would pay close attention to safety and environmental measures to protect workers and the environment.
The President commended all stakeholders involved in the PAGMI for their painstaking efforts in developing a programme aimed at improved sourcing and refining of high-quality gold bars, derived from minefields in Nigeria.
Speaking with State House correspondents after the launch, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State said the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, PAGMDI, will positively impact on the security situation in most parts of the country currently experiencing security challenges.
Bagudu, who is also the Vice-Chairman of the PAGMDI steering committee, said that the initiative would eliminate illegality and criminality in the Solid Minerals sector.
Recall that banditry and kidnapping in the north-west states of Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto have been attributed to illegal mining.
He said that many states, including Kebbi have people in the artisanal gold mining sector for decades but this is the first time they are being energized by a National Programme.
He noted that the initiative would ensure that miners are supported by a steering committee to include those artisanal miners that are eager to do their activities, but they have been doing so illegally, with health hazards to themselves, damage to the environment and because of illegality, it brings insecurity.
According to him, "Will this contribute to security, yes certainly, I have said that already most of the Artisanal miners because they are illegal and because they are producing something that is very precious and easy to transport.
"So it attracts criminals and criminality but the PAGMDI process is now for formalizing them, recognizing them, providing them protection so that whosoever wants to participate, will register and get trained and participate and do it legitimately this will have a significant effect on insecurity in some places of the country particularly where mineral production including gold is taking place because it will provide them with safety and formalization."