Ayade seeks review, removal of Solid Minerals Act from exclusive list 

Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, has called for urgent review of the Solid Minerals Act of 2007.

The Act places the exploration and exploitation of solid minerals in the Exclusive Legislative list, which Ayade said is an obnoxious policy not good for the host communities.

Ayade, was quoted in a statement to have made the call at the Executive Council Chamber in Calabar, at weekend, during a visit by the Minister of State for Solid Minerals, Dr Uche Ogah.

He said the subsisting policy where mining licences were issued to miners without the input of host states was not people-oriented.

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He said: “If you look at the Mineral Act of 2007, particularly in reference to Section 1, it provides for the total appropriation of solid minerals under the purview and control of the federal government. Unfortunately, the Land Use Act puts the land as the property of the state under the control of the governors.

“So the president, as well as the minister, along with the governors must have to sit at a round table and talk. But unfortunately that has not happened. However, I am happy you are being very proactive by coming for this engagement.”

Ayade insisted that the current practice “is unacceptable for an investor to go to Abuja, and get a licence to mine in my state without my knowledge and without my input. The investor simply sits with a local community chief and enters into a Community Development Agreement (CDA), which is meant to favour the investor. And so, with as little as dry gin and a little money, the community signs off a great potential because there is no involvement of the state.

“States are becoming aggressive, states have begun the process of locking out the people you give your mining licence so that they cannot enter their lands without authorization from the states.”

Ayade urged the Federal Government to get states involved in the process of issuance of mining licences, even as he commended the minister for interfacing with stakeholders in the sector, saying: “Until you get to the point where you sit with the state governors and engage them the way you are doing now, then this disagreement will persist.

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“Your visit shows you understand the problem because the state owns the land and in law, whatever is underneath the land and up to the sky, belongs to the landowners. So, for the federal government that exists in the air to be the owners of the waterways, owners of anything underneath the ground, is not right.

“Maybe it is time for us to take it out of the Exclusive List, maybe it is time for us to take them to the Concurrent List.

The federal government must realise that the development of a state is a function of the state government. The federal government, therefore, must focus mainly on economy, security, foreign policy and all that will keep this country as an indivisible entity.”

Ayade, who further enlisted the help of the minister to push for the review of the extant law, which prevents states from taking advantage of their God-given resources said: “My recommendation, therefore, is that you must find a modus operandi that allows you the power of taking advantage of the constitution that is about to be reviewed, to say: look, even before you come
to us to seek licence for mining, please go and get approval and clearance from the state government.

“Until that is done, the direct introduction of the CDA, which enables the investor to deal directly with the community, will continue to put the community in danger.”

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On his part, Ogah, who was in the state for a two-day working visit during which he met with stakeholders in the sector, lauded Ayade for the “outstanding successes that your administration has achieved in executing people focused legacy projects for the peace and prosperity of the people of Cross River State. For me, I call it an audacity of hope where there is hopelessness.”

The minister solicited the support of the governor “in accelerating the development of the huge mineral deposits found in the state. I understand in Cross River you have minerals like barite, lead, zinc, iron ore, granite manganese etc. You have over 33 solid minerals. Even some nations in Africa do not have as many minerals as Cross River has got. This shows that the state is blessed.”

He further stated that part of his mission was “to sensitize mine operators, members of the host communities, and other mining stakeholders to ensure mining activities are conducted in a safe, efficient, environmentally-friendly manner, and consistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals Mining Act.”

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