|Tuesday, May 21, 2019|
Miami, Florida, USA
t is often said that in every bad situation, there is a sliver of hope. Thus, the chaotic, murderous and despairing situation in Zamfara State led to the confirmation that Nigerian citizens can actually purchase licenses to mine solid minerals such as gold. This means that Nigerians living in areas where solid minerals are found can actually engage in mining as a form of business to generate income to take care of their families and communities. The revelation comes as a shock to indigenes of the oil and gas producing region of the country. The reason is that in that region, the inhabitants are not allowed to engage in any exploration and selling of the products due to stringent federal regulation. Only the well-connected individuals are allowed to operate oil companies.
For purpose of this write up, liquid minerals are limited to petroleum and liquidified natural gas products. Of course, petroleum can be both liquid and solid also. On the other hand, solid minerals here are limited to those minerals found in the non-oil producing regions which are naturally occurring inorganic solid substances. They include barite, bentonite, bismuth, bitumen, cassiterite, chromite, clay, coal, columbite, dantalite, diamond, feldspars, fluorite, glass, gold, granite, gypsium, Kaolin, kyanite, lead, limestone, lithium, manganese, marble, mica, phosphate, rutile, silica sand, silver, talc, tin ore, tourmaline, uranium, wolframite, zinc and so forth.
The Zamfara revelation shows that the Federal Government operates two standards in the management of mineral resources in Nigeria. While the Federal Government has passed stringent acts, including the Oil in Navigable Water Act of 1968, the Petroleum Decree of 1969, the Oil Pipeline Act of 1069, the Offshore Oil Revenue Decree of 1971, the Petroleum Production and Distribution Act of 1975, the Exclusive Economic Zone Act of 1978, the Land Use Decree of 1979 and the Gas Re-injection Decree of 1979 to gain total national control of the liquid minerals, Nigerians in regions with solid minerals can earn a living from mining with little or no federal inhibition. For instance, the Federal Government that is so intolerant of private mining of oil and gas in the oil region, actually registered about 600 mining cooperatives to engage in mining of gold around Zamfara State and the surrounding environs (https://venturesafrica.com/nigeria-federal-government-issue-licenses-to-seven-gold-mining-firms/) . This means that Nigerian citizens who inhabit regions where solid minerals are found can actually form private mining cooperatives to carry out exploration of solid minerals.
The registering of 600 mining cooperatives seems contrary to the tenets of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007. One of the conditions of this act is that "No person shall search for or exploit mineral resources in Nigeria or divert or exploit or impound water for the purpose of mining except as provided in this act" (https://www.lawnigeria.com/LFN/N/Nigerian-Minerals-and-Mining-Act.php).
The first inkling that Nigeria has a double standard in dealing with minerals in the country came about during the Ife vs. Modakeke conflict in early 2000s. During that conflict, the late Maj. Gen. David Ejoor revealed during an interview that the mining of gold was a contributing factor in the escalation of the conflict. In other words, the two communities (Ife and Modakeke) were partially feuding over the right to mine as well as own the proceeds generated through gold mining. The late general explained that the then head of state, Chief/Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo helped to resolve the conflict peacefully without deploying the military to stop them from mining gold in the area (Osinaike, G. & Oyegunle, J. [July 6, 2005] Maj. Gen. David Ejoor's eye-opening statements. Vanguard. Posted on [email protected] 7/6/2005.). On the other hand, the general noted that former President Obasanjo sent the Nigerian military to the Niger Delta to militarize the oil conflict. Thus, Gen. Ejoor felt that there was a double standard in the management of minerals in Nigeria. The second revelation of a double standard came about through a media report which described private mining of tin ore in Plateau State, especially near Jos and surrounding environs (https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/inside-the-bitter-sweet-lives-of-tin-miners.html). This meant that individuals were allowed (and continued to be allowed) to mine tin without the Federal Government sending the military to stop them. The third revelation about a national double standard in the regulation of mineral management in Nigeria took place when Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State made a press statement during the launching of the first Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit indicating that the state, especially in Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area, has one of the largest deposits of gold in the country. He went as far as to say that Kaduna State actually has more gold deposits than the Republic of South Africa. Then, he announced that the state government was looking for private mining companies to mine the gold (https://punchng.com/kaduna-gold-deposit-bigger-than-safricas-reserves/) .
When Governor El Rufai indicated that he was searching for private mining companies to mine gold in his state, the citizens of the oil region were taken aback since they know that the governors of their own states cannot engage the services of private mining companies to explore oil and gas in their states. Moreover, any exploration activity must be approved by the NNPC. Generally, it is well-connected Nigerians who are able to establish oil exploring companies.
Due to the fact that Nigeria has total control over the management of oil and gas, it is not surprising that oil stocks (blocks) are given to highly connected individuals who have no relationship to the oil region. In fact, the citizens of the oil region are not even informed when Nigeria decides to distribute oil stocks. Most of them do not even know the names of the individuals who own the oil blocks in their communities. It is a very strange relationship between the indigenes of the oil region and those Nigerians who own the oil blocks in their communities.
The national double standard is so obvious that in the liquid mineral zone, to ensure total national control, the armed forces (Joint Task Force) are deployed to prevent any disruption of oil and gas operations. Citizens who threaten the oil business in any form or manner are ruthlessly dealt with. Hence, Nigerians in the oil region feel like third class citizens who have no right to exercise any authority over minerals that are found in their communities. The Nigerian Navy and Army patrol the region to ferret out any illegal oil mining activity. Those caught doing so are detained and their equipment confiscated. On the other hand, Nigerians in Osun, Plateau, Zamfara and other states where gold and other solid minerals are found can engage in private mining of the minerals without incurring the wrath of the Nigerian military. The Nigerian military is not deployed to ferret out illegal mining activities in regions that have solid minerals. In Zamfara State, if not for the fact that the killings and destruction had gotten out of control, the Federal Government would have not deployed the military.
Actually, the citizens of the oil region cannot even determine which oil company should come into their territory to explore oil and gas. The oil companies only deal with the Federal Government and the citizens of the region have no input whatsoever in decisions that the government make concerning the exploration of oil and gas. As a result, the oil companies treat the citizens as creatures that have no natural and economic rights. They violate Nigeria's environmental and gas flaring laws with impunity, knowing full well that Nigeria does not care much about what happens to the citizens of the oil region. They rarely employ people from the oil region to work in the oil companies. In fact, the youths of Ugborodo community in Delta State just completed an 11-day demonstrations and protests against Chevron for lack of employment and support for community development activities. Almost every community in the oil region bemoan the lack of social responsibility on the part of the oil companies towards host communities.
Nigeria is not interested in enforcing the laws, hence, it keeps postponing the deadline for stopping gas flaring. Thus, the entire region is polluted and Nigerian leaders have no interest in spending some of the wealth generated from oil exploration to clean the oil region. In other words, it is alright to exploit the region but it is not alright to spend money generated from the region to clean the mess created by petroleum exploration.
Apparently, while the Federal Government insists that it is solely responsible for managing all mineral resources in the country, the Solid Minerals Development Fund, which was inaugurated in 2013, after having been established through the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, has not taken off in a manner that creates any recognizable impact. This means that the Federal Government is only paying lip service to the need to activate the full potential of the solid mineral sector in contributing to the economic development of the country.
Perhaps, due to political reasons, the Federal Government does not seem totally committed to the regulation of solid minerals in the county, despite the Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, as indicated above. The Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police Force and the Airforce are not deployed in regions where solid minerals are found to stop illegal mining activities. Therefore, for decades Nigerian citizens in those regions have been very active in mining those minerals. They are not worried of being arrested or shot at for engaging in illegal mining activities. Thus, they generate wealth that does not even go to the coffers of the Nigerian state.
The lack of national interest or political will in stringently regulating and managing the solid minerals sector so as to generate a robust national income is evidenced by the fact that solid minerals only account for less than half a percent of the Nigerian GDP. To reverse the low trend, the Federal Government developed a plan in 2015 which envisaged increasing the percentage of the GDP in solid mineral production to 5% in 2015 and 10% in 2020. Unfortunately, the projection did not materialize, hence, the national government now intends on generating about three percent of GDP from solid mineral production in 2025, as noted by George Lwand (https://worldpolicy.org/2017/10/03/can-the-nigeria-solid-minerals-development-fund-deliver/).
If the Nigerian government is only interested in generating 3 percent of the GDP through solid mineral exploration in 2025, this means that the oil region would continue to bear the greatest burden in shouldering the responsibility for generating foreign exchange. This further means that private citizens would be allowed to continue to mine solid minerals in the non-oil producing regions.
The nation's lack of political will in generating wealth through solid minerals is further demonstrated by the fact that it was in November 27, 2018 that the Federal Government awarded sixteen contracts to mining companies to offer consulting services in preparation for the exploration of solid minerals (https://af.reuters.com/article/nigeriaNews/idAFL8N1Y25G5). This implies that the national government is not really interested in fully exploring solid minerals while it concentrates its effort in maximizing the exploration and exploitation of the oil region. Perhaps, this is the reason why oil accounts for 90 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange, even though the service sector is the largest contributor to the country's GDP (https://africacheck.org/reports/nigerias-economy-services-drive-gdp-but-oil-still-dominates-exports/). No wonder, the oil region is devastated due to oil pollution.
The fact that the Federal Government continues to focus its attention in maximizing its foreign exchange earnings through oil and gas production, perhaps, contributes to the president's unwillingness to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB). Similarly, it could also be said that the lack of national will to treat the oil region equitably has been responsible for the long and torturous journey that the PIGB bill took before the National Assembly passed it. It should be noted that the bill started as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)) in 1999 and kept being dangling in the air in the National Assembly by those legislators from the non-oil producing regions for almost twenty years now (https://www.legit.ng/1228366-10-reasons-president-buhari-sign-pib-may-29.html ). It is certain that if oil and gas were located in the regions of the power-wielding groups, the oil region would have been treated differently than what is happening to the oil region today.
The Reaction of the Oil Region towards the Double Standard
Nigerians from the oil region react in ways that baffle the mind concerning the double standard that exist in the enforcement of national laws dealing with mineral resources management in the country.
First, the senators and representatives of the oil region that are in the National Assembly (NA) have either spoken very little or nothing at all about the dichotomy in the management of mineral resources in the country. These representatives, perhaps, have tactically decided not to say anything about the fact that Nigeria has a double standard which affects their constituents very negatively. It seems that the elected legislators have internally accepted the view that the oil region must be sacrificed to sustain the country. Otherwise, they would have spoken loudly to show their displeasure regarding the manner in which their region is being unduly exploited.
Second, the oil region, made up of ten states, has had cabinet ministers/commissioners in all the military regimes and civil administrations that have ruled Nigeria since petroleum became a major source of national income. These personalities have known for decades that the oil and gas region is treated differently from regions with solid mineral deposits. Yet, they did not (and have not) work frantically to change the policy which penalizes the indigenes of the oil region while rewarding the indigenes of the regions where gold, tin, coal, columbite and other solid minerals are found. Even in President Muhammadu Buhari's Administration, there are highly placed government officials from the oil region, serving as ministers, directors and political advisers, yet, they do not seem interested in persuading the Federal Government to change policy and equalize the playing field for exploration of minerals in the country
Third, the governors of the oil producing region seemed not irked and cheated by the fact that while governors in solid mineral producing states can invite private mining companies to come to their states and carry out mining activities, they cannot do so in the oil region. In other words, the governors of the states with solid minerals can actually create wealth and employment through mining the minerals in their own states to boost their economies while the governors of the oil region cannot do so. It is puzzling why the governors in the oil region have not filed a class action suit to force the Federal Government to apply the same standard across the board in the management of liquid and solid minerals in the country.
In fact, when Governor Nasir el-Rufai announced that he was working out a plan to invite mining companies to explore gold in his state, a governor in the oil-producing region would have tested the constitutionality of the draconian military-era decrees that nationalize oil and gas ownership by announcing that he too would invite an oil company to explore oil and gas in his own state to test federal response. Unfortunately, none of the governors paid attention to the implication that a governor in the same country can invite foreign mining companies and governors in oil-producing states cannot do so. The lack of response to Governor El-Rufai's announcement means that the governors of the oil-producing states have accepted the status quo, hence, decided not to challenge the Federal Government constitutionally.
Fourth, it is also puzzling why the governors and the national legislators of the oil-producing states have not put political pressure on the National Assembly and the president to denationalize liquid mineral resources if solid minerals are not put under the same stringent national standard.
Fifth, another baffling thing about the lack of proactive response from the oil region is the almost absent-mindedness of the civil society organizations in the region to the double standard that exist between the manner in which the Federal Government treats the oil region and the total lack of national enforcement in the management of solid mineral resources in the country. It seems that civil society organizations in the oil region are not bothered by the fact that the citizens of the region are not having a fair deal in the country. Apart from the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) which made a press statement decrying the unfair treatment of the oil region and called for a constitutional amendment, following the revelation that individuals are allowed to explore gold in Zamfara State (https://nigeriaworld.com/news/source/2019/may/8/302.html), no other major regional organization has made a press statement about the dichotomy or the double standard.
Sixth, it is inferable that the indigenes of the oil region are overwhelmed and defeated to the point that they have given up any hope that Nigeria will reconsider its double standard and allow them to engage in private mining or gain at least 50% of the revenue accruing from oil and gas exploration and production. It is assumable that after decades of protesting and decrying their unfair treatment without a positive response from the Federal Government, many of them have given up and simply decide to exist, knowing full well that there is not much they can do to change the minds of Nigerian rulers.
Seventh, the different national regulatory standards for solid and liquid minerals have existed since the enactment of the Petroleum act, yet, the sons and daughters of the oil region which had served as leaders of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and oil-related agencies kept quiet and allowed their people to be exploited.
Reaction of Nigerians from the Non-Oil Producing Regions towards the Double Standard in the Management of Mineral Resources
First, a considerable number of Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions strongly believe that oil and gas are national resources that belong to all Nigerians, irrespective of the region in which the resources are being explored. As a result, they insist that the wealth generated through oil and gas must be shared nationally. In fact, in 2014, Usman Bugaje went as far as to say that the oil actually belongs to the North, even though it is found in the South-South, South-East, and Southwest zones of the country (https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/06/nigerias-crude-oil-belongs-north/).
Second, strongly believing that oil and gas are national resources, many Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions always show their displeasure whenever youths in the oil region disrupt oil and gas exploration. As a result, whenever oil production is disturbed or interfered with, some Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions would use all kinds of expletives and or derogatory statements, such as "lazy," "oil thieves," "criminals," "stupid" and so on and so forth, against Nigerians from the oil region for disrupting their national resources. Yet, they remain quiet over the fact that the Federal Government does not apply the same stringent standard in the management of solid minerals in other parts of the country. These Nigerians are not irked by the fact that some Nigerians in the non-oil producing regions can literally mine solid minerals and enrich themselves and their families while citizens of the oil region cannot do so.
Third, the citizens of the non-oil producing regions are not angered by the fact that wealth generated from the mining of gold, tin and other solid minerals are not distributed nationally to the benefit of all citizens and states in the country as the wealth generated from oil and gas. Thus, while these Nigerians claim that oil and gas are national resources, they do not seem to attach the same standard of national ownership to solid minerals. As a result, they are not expressing their displeasure at the realization that some Nigerians can actually purchase licenses to explore solid minerals while citizens in the oil region cannot obtain licenses to explore oil and gas, unless they are part of the political clique that have national influence.
Fourth, those Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions that insist on total national control of oil and gas production have no problem with the fact that there is little or no national control of solid minerals. Hence, they are not screaming and using expletives to describe those Nigerians who are buying licenses to explore and profit from solid minerals.
Fifth, the general lack of comment by Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions following the revelation that individuals have been mining gold and other solid mineral in Zamfara and other states, shows that Nigerians, like the Federal Government, apply a double standard in their view of mineral resources ownership in the country. Since oil and gas are not found in their regions, they insist that the wealth generated from the liquid minerals must be shared across the nation. However, they are not willing to insist that any wealth generated through exploration of solid minerals must also be shared across the nation. This means that it is alright to violate the economic rights of those Nigerians in the oil region but it is not appropriate to violate the rights of Nigerians in regions that have solid minerals.
It should be noted that before the discovery of oil, solid minerals contributed substantially to the national economy. However, since the black gold became the mainstay of the economy, the Federal Government, whether by omission or tactical reasons, has basically allowed solid minerals to be exploited by individuals and cooperatives. This puts tremendous pressure on the oil region to bear the financial brunt for generating national income to run the country.
Sixth, while many Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions insist that the oil wealth belongs to the entire country, they are not insisting that the Federal Government should bear responsibility in cleaning the environmental pollution that has been visited upon the peoples' of the oil region. Thus, these Nigerians want the oil wealth but are not bothered by the fact that the oil region is dying due to massive pollution and gas flaring.
Seventh, high-level Federal Government officials always talk about increasing oil and gas production but they rarely say anything about the need to clean the oil region. In particular, officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC) have a tendency to announce to the entire world the steps being taken to increase oil and gas production but they rarely say anything about the environmental cost to the indigenes of the oil region. They assume that the citizens of the oil region are not politically relevant, therefore, there is no need to take measures that are necessary to improve the quality of life in the oil region.
The implications of the Double Standard in the Management of Liquid and Solid Minerals in Nigeria
The implications are far-reaching and reflect the self-induced crises that beset the country.
First, despite the fact that Nigeria has both liquid and solid minerals that are capable of generating enormous wealth to fuel the economy and run the government, the leaders of the country, for about five decades now, have relied almost exclusively on revenue generated from the oil region to maintain the entire country. The 36 states and their local governments depend greatly on the oil wealth, allocated through the Federation Account, to take care of their financial needs.
On the other hand, even though solid minerals are as important as liquid minerals, Nigerian leaders do not really care much about generating national income through the effective management of such minerals. It is amazing that Nigerian leaders are not conscious of the fact that solid minerals can generate tremendous wealth for Nigeria. In fact, South Africa and many countries in the world actually rely on solid minerals to generate wealth and build their economies while Nigeria, for whatever reason, decides not to pay attention to the enormous wealth that can be generated through effective management of solid minerals in the country. If Governor Nasir el-Rufai statement concerning the enormity of gold deposits in Kaduna state were to be taken seriously, why is the Federal Government not keen on maximizing the exploration of gold in the country?
It should be noted that Nigeria had relied upon the exploration of solid minerals during and immediately after independence to run the country. Unfortunately, as soon as oil became a major commodity, Nigeria abandoned the solid mineral sector. A country with about 200 million people needs to generate national income from both liquid and solid minerals in order to reduce poverty and unemployment.
Second, the fact that Nigeria is willing to allow individuals to explore solid minerals while not allowing individuals to explore oil and gas seems to indicate that Nigerian leaders regard the oil region as a captured foreign territory that is subject to exploitation. Again, only highly connected Nigerians that are allowed to operate oil companies, not the communities which own the resource.
Third, by enacting all kinds of laws to nationalize oil and gas to the extent that the indigenes of the oi region cannot benefit directly from minerals that are found in their territory while allowing Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions to mine gold, tin, coal, and other minerals, Nigerian leaders seem to be sending a message that Nigeria regards the citizens of the oil region as third class citizens. It means that the citizens in the oil-region are not as important as citizens in the non-oil regions. As a result, they are subject to exploitation.
Fourth, by policing the oil region with the armed forces to ensure undisturbed exploration of oil and gas by the oil companies, Nigerian leaders are telling the citizens of the oil region that their territory is a colony of Nigeria, hence, subject to exploitation. Perhaps, this explains why whenever an oil or gas pipeline is disturbed or tampered with, Nigerian security forces threatened to punish an entire community for the criminal activities of the few. Many community leaders in the oil region have been beaten up, detained and even killed because some youths in the area were suspected to have been responsible for disrupting oil operations. The Nigeria military even threatened to hold community leaders responsible for the actions of pipeline vandals (https://www.google.com/search?q=JTF+threatens+to+arrest+community+leaders+for+pipeline+vandalism&ei=0uPYXNiKEo-v5wKBl4PYBw&start=0&sa=N&ved=0ahUKEwjYu57Sx5fiAhWP11kKHYHLAHs4WhDy0wMIOw&biw=1251&bih=640). In fact, on numerous occasions, the military's Joint Task Force (JTF) has ordered community leaders in the oil region to report and possibly apprehend suspected militants and hand them over to the government for prosecution.
However, in solid mineral producing regions, the military does not threaten community leaders for illegal mining of minerals. Even in Zamfara State, the Federal Government was only forced to act because the violence was getting out of control. Apart from that, there is no special military unit designed to protect solid minerals in Nigeria while the JTF is all over the place in the oil region.
Fifth, by allowing Nigerians in the regions where solid minerals are found to engage in private exploration, Nigerian leaders are sending a message that they are purposely discriminating in favor of their own people while discriminating against the citizens of the oil region who have no political power to effect a change in national policy.
Sixth, by not being interested in nationalizing solid minerals which are mostly located in the regions where most of the power-wielding groups come from, Nigerian leaders are sending a message that they are willing to sacrifice the national interest to enable their own people to generate private wealth and create employment in their own communities.
Seventh, since it is estimated that Nigeria only desires to generate about 3 percent of the GDP through the exploration of solid minerals in 2025, this indirectly means that Nigerian's political leaders do not want to deprive their own people the ability to earn income through exploration of solid minerals which are found in their territories. In other words, Nigerians whose territories have solid minerals have natural and economic rights to enjoy the wealth generated from their territories while Nigerians who are from the oil region have no such rights.
Eighth, the most alarming thing about the fact that the Federal Government has two polices concerning the management of the nation's minerals is that the leaders of the oil producing region know that there is a different standard for liquid minerals and another for solid minerals, yet, fail to do something about it. The leaders of the oil region failed in the following ways:
It is obvious that Nigeria has two polices or standards concerning the regulation, control and management of mineral resources. As a result, the policy towards solid minerals is different from the policy on liquid minerals. The double standard penalizes citizens in the oil region while rewarding citizens in the non-oil producing regions. Thus, the double standard is a violation of the constitutional rights of the indigenes of the oil region who have been compelled to sacrifice their existence in order to sustain Nigeria.
To ensure equity, it is time for Nigeria to eradicate the double standard and streamline the management of mineral resources in the country. In this regard, if it continues to allow individuals in the solid mineral-rich regions to generate income through private mining, it must denationalize oil and gas and allow the indigenes of the oil region too to generate income through private exploration. Otherwise, it must make sure that all minerals are nationalized stringently the way oil and gas are. Similarly, national income generated through the exploration of solid minerals must be distributed through the Federation Account to all the states and local governments.