“FG moves to curb illegal mining; laments $9bn loss.” News Report.
The report among other things said that the $9bn was lost between 2014 and 2015. There was no mention of the losses since May 2015 and now because that would have been self-indicting. But, the entire report was a true confession that the Federal Government has had no strategic plan to curb illegal mining which everybody was aware of long ago. At today’s official exchange rate that amounts to N2.85 trillion – more than the amount budgeted for loans in the 2018 Budget.
The report also made some other revelations which were startling because they partially, not totally, explained why the FG’s efforts directed at curbing illegal mining has failed woefully so far.
According to the Minister, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved N987m for the purchase of 50 Toyota Hilux vehicles at the cost of over N19m each to help curb illegal mining. One only hopes that the Hilux vans will be custom built because N19m is on the high side for the ordinary Hilux – even with all accessories added on.
Dr Fayemi gave the reason for the approval. “The approval was sequel to the realization that the deployment of one vehicle per state could not make significant impact in the monitoring of illegal mining activities.”
It requires no great intelligence to realize that if two vehicles are deemed adequate for Lagos State and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, which are the smallest units, then the same two cannot possibly be considered adequate for the states with the largest areas. Compared to states like Niger, Sokoto and Taraba, Lagos is just about the size of three Local Government areas. Furthermore, except for crude oil recently being produced off shore, Lagos has not been established as a state with solid mineral deposits.
Obviously, the FG has done a lazy man’s job of planning to curb illegal mining. The only thing certain as a consequence of this approval is the increased cost of monitoring. At least additional drivers will be employed; the maintenance cost of vehicles will more than double as thirteen extra vehicles have been added to the 37 needed to double current fleet of vehicles. At best, marginal improvement in curbing of illegal mining will be the result for the simple reason that the FG has selected the least cost effective method of curbing illegal mining which unlike oil production is conducted on land and in communities whose residents are aware of the activities of the miners.
If ever there is a strong case for restructuring the economy and introducing Resource Control from the community to state level, solid minerals provide the case. Instead of procuring vehicles, hiring drivers and maintaining them at great expense by government, Resource Control is the answer. By making it mandatory for investors in solid minerals production to allow Local Governments and States to be shareholders in any solid mineral production and which also guarantees the communities and states 13.5 per cent derivation, FG’s monitoring activities will henceforth become unnecessary.
Adopting that option will make the communities responsible for the solid minerals extracted from their territories; they will have the incentive to monitor because it is in their interests to do. Those monitoring will be close to the sites instead of the traveling monitors which the FG new ineffectively deploys.
“It is the wisdom of the crocodile that shed tears when they would devour”, said Francis Bacon, 1561-1626; English philosopher.
The FG, like the crocodile is shedding tears when indeed it is now devouring the states by not allowing Resource Control at all levels. Instead, after taking more than its fair share of national aggregate revenue prefers to give bogus loans to the states after robbing them of their legitimate revenue as they are doing now.
If states with solid mineral deposits know what is good for them, they will embrace restructuring which aims to minimize the percentage of revenue going to Abuja and increase states’ shares instead of being treated like beggars by the FG which has robbed them in the first place.
The current state governors eagerly taking the loans are short-sighted and some are also unpatriotic. Those departing in May 2019, or before, are mortgaging the future of their states by accepting loans to pay salaries owed today. They know it and are cynical about it. Furthermore, a second term for the Buhari administration will certainly bring an end to the loans because the measure is political and not economic. At, any rate, how long will they continue to borrow just to pay salaries? We still have eighteen months to go before the terms of most governors end. How many more loans will they collect to stay afloat? The N800 million offered to each state will not pay one full month’s salary for all their staff. It is a drop in a glass of water. The only real beneficiary is the FG which is playing Big Brother and benefactor to those it has first rendered destitute.