Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogah has accused private jet owners of aiding gold smuggling in the country.
Ogah, therefore, canvassed for capital punishment for gold smugglers as well as illegal miners.
The minister spoke at an investigative hearing on $9billion the annual loss to illegal mining and smuggling of Gold, organised by the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, on Tuesday.
He said: “Gold smuggling in Nigeria are often done using private jets, the very reason why private jets ownership and operations need to be streamlined in the country”.
The minister lamented further that gold smuggling and Illegal mining which are robbing the country of billions of dollars on yearly basis, thrive due to series of factors like connivance of security agencies with the offenders, host communities collaboration, low level of application of technology and negative mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria.
“For these crimes to be fought decisively, potent punitive measure like capital punishment, need to be legally provided for”.
He, however, added that the menace can be tackled proactively through the establishment of Mines Police, Special Court or Tribunals to try offenders, adequate funding for the Ministry and positive mindsets of Nigerians to Nigeria.
“The main crux of the matter is for us to be Nigerian by seeing ourselves as Nigerians in all circumstances. Doing this will make us see mineral resources in our communities as a collective wealth of all Nigerians that must not be illegally explored by anybody within or from outside the country”, he stressed.
According to him, illegal mining in Nigeria dated back to the early 1980s as a result of the indigenisation policy of the military regime in the late 1970s.
The menace, he explained, was prompted by the inability of indigenous workers to obtain mineral titles and required technology for mining used by the British miners before the indigenisation policy.
Also speaking, a member of the Committee, Senator Francis Fadaunsi alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made smuggling so easy in Nigeria.
The apex bank, he explained, facilitated the menace, through its lopsided and exclusive policy on forex availability to Nigerians.
According to him, “Gold smuggling and illegal mining are carried out by political elites and not just the poor masses at the illegal mining sites.
Categories of Nigerians at the top from political office holders, politicians, traditional rulers, top security officers, etc, are involved in gold smuggling and illegal mining in one way or the other. Poor ones did it on behalf of the big ones”, Fadahunsi said.
On his part, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Tanko Al- Makura, said for a thorough investigation of the menace, heads of relevant government agencies will be invited for another round of discussion.
According to him, the agencies to be invited : Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Police, Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).