Niger Governor Abubakar Sani- Bello on Thursday threatened to shut down all mining sites across the state because they have been infiltrated by foreigners causing security threat.
The Governor disagreed with the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development Dr. Ukechukwu Ogah that state governments do not have the right to stop mining operations.
He admitted while state governments do not have any business in issuing licenses but stated a governor can shut down mining sites if they pose a security threat to the state.
He declared that he will close down all mining sites, claiming they were responsible for increased insecurity in the state.
According to him: “Most mining areas in the state face security risks, they have become the basis of the heightened security threats in the state.
“In the past two weeks, we have had sleepless nights because of these miners most of who are illegal and foreigners.
“Even if I do not have proof, I strongly believe that these mining sites have everything to do with the security situation in the state.
“I will shut down any mining site in areas where there is insecurity. I will shut it down straight up because I have no time to experiment or play politics.
“If I am shutting down mining sites, it will be on security ground and it will not be politically motivated.
“When I shut them down, if the miners have any complaints, they should direct it to the Federal Ministry of Mining and explain the reason why we shut it down.
“However, if they dialogue and engage properly and we discover that the mining site is not a security threat, then it may be re-opened.”
The Governor lamented the illegal and dangerous activities going on in the mining sites, stressing that most of the miners are usually heavily- armed and ready to cause harm at any given time.
“These so-called miners are armed, heavily armed. These mining sites have become a market for drugs and other illegal activities.
“They party all night, disturbing communities. Everything bad happens there and most of them are not even from Niger state, a lot of them are foreigners.
“If we do not crush them now they will grow stronger and bolder and the result will be devastating. This is where we have to differ with the Federal Ministry. I have no time to go through political bureaucracy where lives are at risk.”
Bello then said the state and the federal government can collaborate to put a check and monitor the activities of these miners.
Ogah called for synergy between the Ministry and Governors, adding that the ministry wants to work with state and local government to move the sector forward.
The Minister further stated that it is not the responsibility of the state government to issue licenses or close mines.
“Only the Ministry of Mines and Steel have the right to stop mining operations or get involved in the closing of the mines.
“It is also not the responsibility of the state governments to issue licenses. The state needs to be aware of it and follow accordingly.”