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Nigeria: Who Owns Zamfara’s Gold?

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Nigeria: Who Owns Zamfara's Gold?

The government must address the issue urgently

Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, raised a very fundamental issue that surrounds Nigeria’s flawed federal structure recently when he questioned the arrangement that allowed Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle to keep the proceeds of the sale of N5 billion worth of Gold bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at a time when the proceeds of oil in the Niger Delta Region are shared by all the federating units. “The gold bar was presented for sale to the CBN. Our (Niger Delta) people are beginning to wonder who owns this gold that is being sold to the CBN. They don’t sell oil in any of the Niger Delta states. We believe that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire country and not to the state government,” said Ovie-Agege.

The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 was passed into law on 16th March 2007 to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999 for the purposes of regulating the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria. It vests the control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria in the state and prohibits unauthorised exploration or exploitation of the mineral deposits. The question now is about the arrangement that gives the government of Zamfara custodian of revenues from the gold prospected in their states. As Omo-Agege asked, are there two laws in Nigeria, one for Niger Delta and another for Zamfara?

There is also the national security component of the Zamfara gold that needs to be urgently tackled. Only recently, Governor Matawalle said that foreigners were coming to his state to trade in guns with locals for mineral resources, particularly gold. In the first instance, what beats the imagination is why any government would yield to locals the rights to mine the minerals which is now subsequently exchanged for arms contrary to the logic that unfettered access to small arms and light weapons is a catalyst for banditry, kidnapping and insurgency.