The Federal Government has ordered all illegal miners in the country to vacate sites immediately or face significant consequences.
Dele Alake, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, issued the warning during the graduation ceremony and presentation of starter packs to 30 graduating trainees under Batch 3 of the Ministry’s Programme on ‘Gemstone and Jewellery Master Training and Empowerment’ under the Mineral Support for Economic Diversification, MinDiver, a World Bank-assisted project.
Alake stated that the skill acquisition program was part of President Bola Tinubu’s ‘Renewed Hope agenda, noting that the graduation was a fulfillment of Tinubu’s promise during his presidential campaign to create massive jobs for the youth.
Alake applauded Min-Diver for the efforts made thus far to add value to the lives of Nigerians through intensive training conducted by dedicated, experienced, and committed experts to transfer knowledge and skills to young Nigerians who will in turn train and create jobs for other Nigerians in all 774 local government areas of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
He also noted that the program had previously produced 40 master jewelers who were trained between 2021 and 2022 and that the initial batch of 70 master jewelers will be a faculty that will instruct aspiring jewelers across Nigeria’s 774 local governments.
The Minister, on the other hand, urged state governments to collaborate with the Ministry by supporting at least 10 adolescents in each local government for training in these highly marketable talents.
He told them that the faculty would be mobilized to any state willing to empower their youths by imparting technical knowledge and demonstrating the techniques for utilizing solid minerals to enhance the beauty of our people.
He said: “Looking at the result of this seemingly small but extremely significant gesture of graduating students that have gone through the crucibles of learning the art of skill acquisition, it rebuilds hope for our country, Nigeria.
“I commend your efforts, initiatives, focus, and sense of responsibility. You have gone through the process of skill acquisition in this very critical sector.
“Nigeria, with its large population, has an appetite for jewelry, and it is imperative to create a local jewelry industry to meet substantially local demands for quality jewelry products, increase import substitution, create jobs, and boost the export value of Nigeria’s gemstones and jewelry.
“Nigeria is abundantly blessed with a variety of mineral resources; among the minerals identified are varieties of precious and semi-precious stones. Some of the most popular Nigerian gemstones include sapphire, aquamarine, beryl, emerald, tourmaline, ruby, garnet, amethyst, and zircon, which are located across the length and breadth of Nigeria and are used to adorn designs but are sadly illegally exported.
“Now let me use this opportunity to send a very stern and strong warning to the entire nation that, with Mr. President, there is a new sheriff in town and illegal mining will be curbed. Illegal exportation of our gemstones and critical minerals would no longer be tolerated by this administration.
“My Ministry is currently putting in place strategies, tactics, and logistics, and we are working very assiduously and closely with the security agencies with the view of designing a very solid and enduring formula for combating illegal mining and illegal exportation of all our critical minerals in this country.
“In due course, the details would be unfolded to the public. But I am just using this opportunity to send a strong warning to those currently engaged in illegal mining in Nigeria that, henceforth, it will no longer be business as usual.
“We must harness all our critical resources for the benefit of our nation. Today, it is a known fact all over the world that hydrocarbons are on a downward trend in global international trade, meaning that all that is contingent on our development, including GDP, is substantially no longer what it used to be and is on the decline.
“So what do we do? We have to shift attention to non-oil exports, and believe me, Nigeria is sitting on one of the most enormous amounts of mineral resources in the world.
“There is virtually no state that does not have one mineral resource or another that is sought after in the global international market”.
He also bemoaned the fact that Nigerians have overlooked these resources, which could have massively transformed the economy.
According to him, “Necessarily and compulsorily attention is now focused on the non-oil exports, particularly solid minerals, and that is why the Ministry is now the focal point for generating substantial revenue and making a contribution to the GDP of our country.
“I say with all emphasis and all sense of responsibility that solid minerals are the next petroleum in Nigeria. We are not going to be exporting, exploring, excavating, and carting away our solid minerals abroad. We are going to add local value, and we are going to attract foreign investors into this industry and sector.
“However, one of the salient conditions is that the foreign investors will not just come and excavate our resources and minerals away; they must also do backward integration in terms of establishing the industries and factories that would add local value to our natural resources before being taken out and that would create more jobs, resources, and revenue”.