By Grace Obike, Abuja
The federal government has pledged to prosecute the 17 illegal Chinese miners recently seized in the state of Osun, both captured in the state of Zamfara and others detained for illegal mining to the full extent of the law.
The government said that while the Chinese are the most guilty illegal miners who steal the country's gold, it is aware that other nationals such as Senegalese, Burkinabe, etc. they are also mining illegally and will be treated when captured.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite stated this in Abuja at a press conference.
He said the ongoing pandemic caused a drop in the price of other industrial minerals except gold, which happens to be the safest currency in the world at the moment.
Adegbite said that an ounce of gold is currently selling for around $ 1,768 in the international stock market, increasing the importance of gold and the mad rush of illegal mining activities.
The minister stated that he had met with the Federation's chief justice on the subject who advised him to work with the chief judge of the Supreme Federal Court and the attorney general to designate some specific courts for an accelerated hearing.
He said: “In recent days, social media has been flooded with the apprehension of illegal miners; was the first in the state of Zamfara and more recently in Osun, if you notice that the two states are on the gold line, we know for sure that in Osun State, for example, a foreign company is already working on the mine there and we have potential in many other areas in Osun and Zamfara in search of gold.
“Because of the ongoing pandemic around the world, other industrial minerals are not selling as much now because the industries that would use them are closed, also because of the economic problems associated with these pandemic currencies, which are losing their value and, of course, everyone is escaping. for gold, gold is now the safest currency in the world; if you look at the international stock market, the price of gold keeps going up.
“I think the last time I checked was $ 1768 an ounce of gold, that growing importance of gold and the demand for it has spurred an increase in illegal mining activities, dare I say, no foreigners can enter Nigeria to get involved in illegal mining without collusion with our people.
“Many people invite these people, as we have said several times, trying not to criminalize artisanal miners in the country, which mines so that they can feed, but bring them into the fold and it is the activities of artisanal miners that these illegal miners hide. to commit acts.
“Despite the federal government banning mining activities in the state of Zamfara at the beginning of last year, there was still some kind of illegality, especially with foreigners.
“The foreigners that were identified are Chinese, Burkinabe, Senegalese, etc., but particularly the Chinese.
“We were never able to successfully prosecute any illegal miner in Nigeria, so we wrote letters of thanks to the governments of the two states that seized these people and asked them to allow us as the body empowered to prosecute these people under the act of mining. for what they did.
“States can take them for some kind of environmental misdemeanor, but the crux of their crime is illegal mining and only the federal government has a mandate in the Supreme Federal Court.
“We are taking them to the Federal Supreme Court, the case is being tried, in the past they assumed that we can only bark, but not bite.
“We caught some people and the case is usually lost after a few years and is not heard again, but now, if we are able to successfully sue these people, what we intend to do.
It will send the right signals to others who are doing this. We found that the majority of these foreigners involved are illegally in the country