Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake, has exposed those behind the series of bandit attacks in some parts of the country.
According to him, banditry and kidnappings associated with parts of the country were being sponsored by powerful Nigerians engaged in acts of illegal mining in the country.
Alake disclosed this on Tuesday when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals to defend the Ministry’s 2024 budget estimate.
The minister said those he described as “heavy and powerful Nigerians” were actually the ones behind the insecurity in areas of the country with solid mineral deposits.
He said the government was identifying those individuals and will take appropriate action against them as part of efforts to ensure that the areas are secured for investors who have shown interest in investing in the solid minerals sector in the country.
He said: “One discovery that we have made is that a lot of these insecurities and banditry associated with this sector are sponsored by illegal miners.
“These are not your artisan miners. They are not the people who pick gold on the ground. These are heavy and powerful individuals in our country. They are Nigerians and not foreigners.
“Yes, you can see foreigners as symptoms, but they are not the basics. Nigerians are the powers behind those foreigners that you see on the streets. We are identifying them and employing various strategies, both kinetic and non-kinetic.
“The non-kinetic with that artisan miners, I gave them an ultimatum that they should form themselves into cooperatives because every Nigerian has a right to life and necessities and if the government cannot provide these necessities, we cannot push them into the bush.”
He said his ministry has encouraged the small-scale miners to form themselves into cooperative societies, adding that as of the last count, about 50 of such cooperative societies have been formed.
He disclosed that with the creation of the Ministry, they embarked on a sensitisation programme aimed at drawing the attention of the world to the solid minerals deposit in the country.
He said as a result of such a drive, foreign investors have begun to make enquiries about the possibility of investing in the sector.
According to him, the ministry has identified about 44 key solid mineral deposits in the country which have global demand, pointing out that out of this number, the ministry has singled out seven for particular attention because of their importance.