Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has lashed out at the South-south governors from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly generating bad blood in the party.
Matawalle, who himself was elected on the PDP platform, expressed disappointment at the South-south governors for sparking the controversy over “the so-called Zamfara gold, premised on deliberate misinformation and outright lies.”
He said he was not therefore surprised by the decision of Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State to dump the party for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Matawalle, in a statement in Gusau through his media aide, Zailani Bappa, commended Umahi for his “bold decision rather than condemn him because everyone feels welcome only in a house where he feels comfortable.”
He warned that if “this trend of generating bad blood amongst us continues unabated, our great party will increasingly be on the receiving end as we move towards the year 2023.”
He said: “I am having a very bad experience of recent from some of my PDP governor colleagues, which I still find very puzzling.
“For instance, the South-south governors accusing me in the media are PDP governors, and they are the same people who brewed controversy over the so-called Zamfara Gold, premised on deliberate misinformation and outright lies.
”Surprisingly, it is the APC Federal Government which has all the correct records on the gold mining issue that came out to defend me in this saga.
“As PDP colleagues, I expected the governors to contact me first and find out my own side of the story before unleashing their venom in the media.
”As the brouhaha lasted, I commend the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, for being supportive of our efforts to organise the economic sector in the state to avoid using the mineral deposits to promote insecurity in our dear state.
“Today, the Federal Government is issuing licences to deserving companies to operate in the mining sector in the state.
“The biggest company with an investment of billions of naira is owned by a Nigerian from Anambra State. And I wonder where the idea of Zamfara state owning the gold mines emanated from.
“As at now, the state government does not have a hand in any of the mining activities in the state because the constitution does not empower us to do so.”
He asked the South-south governors to “eschew intellectual idleness and support its people to operate modular refineries as provided by the law and lift their people out of fear rather than sit behind and start chasing shadows rather than substance.”
The South-south governors had convened a meeting in Port Harcourt recently to take “a common position on why Zamfara State can take ownership of its gold reserve and their states cannot lay similar claim to crude oil.”
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who broke the news of the meeting to reporters in Asaba, had said no law of the country permits the Zamfara State Government to control the mineral resources in its domain.
He said the South-south would take up the matter with the Federal Government and that if the matter was not properly addressed, governors from the zone would have no option but to assume control of oil and gas in their states.
He said: “South-south governors before now have been talking about the need for restructuring and need for resource control. Obviously, we are on that because we feel there is the need to restructure not only the country but the management of resources.
“We cannot apply laws in our nation to the point that it becomes discriminatory. Because if people are allowed to process for their solid minerals, they should also be allowed to do same for their oil.
“So we are going to be very hard and try to make our voice as strong as possible during the meeting.”
Zamfara gold belongs to Nigeria, says FG
Reacting to recent reports that the Zamfara State Governor was buying gold from artisanal miners in the state and selling same to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development declared that ”mineral resources remain on the exclusive legislative list as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
It said: “For the benefit of the doubt, Section 44(3) states that ‘the entire property in and control of all minerals, mineral oils and natural gas in, under or upon any land in Nigeria or in, under or upon the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria, shall vest in the Government of the Federation and shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.’
“Likewise the Mineral Act of 2007 is very clear on issue of minerals ownership and exploitation, “It is in line with this that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is saddled with the responsibility of identifying the nation’s solid minerals, advising government on the formulation and execution of laws and regulations guiding the various stages of prospecting, quarrying and mining, and handling sale and consumption of solid minerals in the country, through the issuance of permit, licenses, leases and collection of rents, fees and royalties.
“As part of strategies to implement policies/programmes in the mining sector to broaden revenue generation and employment opportunities in line with the economic diversification agenda of this administration, the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) is being implemented.
“The components of the initiative included but not limited to: – Formalization of the artisanal miners into cooperatives. This is to integrate their activities into the economic and institutional framework that would eliminate illegality; – Registration of Buying Centres and Aggregators, to provide market access for artisanal miners, etc.
“Like in the oil and gas sector, revenues generated from mineral resources are paid into the federation account and shared among the states during the monthly meeting of Federation Allocation Account Committee (FAAC). 13% derivation is paid on mineral resources exploitation from minerals producing states as done in the oil and gas sector.
“Zamfara State has security challenges and the state government discovered that bandits were exploiting the ignorance of the artisanal miners, buy off their gold at very cheap price, take the gold across the border and sell at market price and exchange for ammunition and guns, which was fueling banditry.
“Zamfara State Government through a registered company with a buying centre license is now buying gold from the artisanal miners at market price.
“This has no doubt discouraged the artisanal miners in the state from selling to bandits. Though states through their licensed corporate bodies can buy and sell gold to any interested persons or company, it is worthy of note that CBN did not and will not buy gold from Zamfara Government.
“The gold displayed by Zamfara State Government is called dore bars (semi-processed gold). CBN buys gold that is processed to 99.99% purity, which is LBMA standard, tradable all over the world.
“The Federal Government encourages state governments to be part of exploitation of minerals in the country by incorporating a limited liability company with which to approach the Ministry for a license for Mining or Buying Centres.
“Such corporate body/company must go through normal processes for approval and issuance of licence. This licence allows such company to exploit minerals in any given location, which is called Cadastre Unit.