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October 2020 in Gusau, Governor of Zamfara state, Matawalle told the press that his state has established Nigeria’s first-of-its-kind ‘gold reserve’, reportedly mined and refined by artisanal miners in the state. The gold reserve deposited in a bank, was launched with 31kg of processed gold.

The governor explained, ‘even though our state, like other states of the Federation, is grappling with competing demands from the public, the resources at our disposal are meagre. We feel it is of utmost significance to invest in the future of our people.

‘The establishment of the gold reserve, therefore, is part of the relentless efforts by my administration to diversify the state’s economy by exploring all potentials of the state, and maximally utilising them for the benefit of the present and future generations’.


The Federal Government had banned mining activities in Zamfara after illegal mining by artisanal miners was linked to banditry in the state, following in the steps of Matawalle, the State Commissioner for Finance, Rabiu Garba, revealed that when “mining activities resume fully, we (Zamfara State government) are hopeful that we will be receiving royalties from miners while the Federal Government will also be giving us something”.

This was the understanding and working concept of the Zamfara administration about the gold reserves in the state.

But Who owns the gold in Zamfara State?

The Federal Government of Nigeria, owns the gold and all other mineral deposits in Nigeria including in Zamfara state.

According to the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, all mineral resources, including gold deposits, are owned by the federal government of Nigeria on behalf of the country.
Ownership of gold in Zamfara State has been needlessly controversial, because illegal Gold mining activities have persisted in Zamfara for more than a decade, such that local players and miners assume that the deposits are state owned and free.

Read the Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act, 2007, here.

Prompting former Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, to query the Zamfara gold ownership issue saying, ‘ (Niger Delta) people are beginning to wonder who owns this gold that is being sold to the CBN. They don’t sell oil in any of the Niger Delta states. We believe that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire country and not to the state government.”

He said in a reacting to an arrangement that allowed Zamfara State to keep the proceeds of the sale of N5 billion worth of Gold bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while the Niger Delta Region oil proceeds are shared by all the federating units. said Ovie-Agege.


But What Does The Law Say?

Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007

The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 was passed into law on 16th March 2007 for the purposes of regulating the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria. It repealed the previous Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999 and vests the control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria, and not any individual state.

The establishment of PAGMI

The establishment of PAGMI by the Federal government of Nigeria (FGN) in 2019, is to serve as a vehicle to transform its unregulated and untapped gold deposits into a major source of revenue. integrating it into the nation’s economic framework.

The website of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, clarifies that, “‎PAGMI will deploy safer and more efficient mining and processing technologies across artisanal mine locations across the country, starting with Kebbi and Osun States as the Pilot States with intervention in Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger States to commence immediately after the Pilot.

“Using a Centralized Off-take and Supply System, PAGMI will buy all the gold produced by artisanal and
small-scale miners and aggregated by licensed buying centers and aggregators for supply to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”


Stronger clamour for resource control

But circumstances surrounding the establishment of a gold reserve by the Zamfara State government, and reports of the purchase of gold from the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria under the PAGMI arrangement, has drawn up a stronger clamour for resource control by oil producing states of the Niger Delta.

The provision of access to markets and the deployment of enhanced mining methods for artisan miners at artisanal and small-scale mining sites, through a PAGMI, in sharp contrast to the provision of a similar federal assisted structure for Niger Delta youths, serve as ‎catalysts for anxiety and discontent.

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Besides, it is rather confounding that the federal government has been dilly-dallying from taking full ownership and control of all lands in which minerals have been found in commercial quantities in accordance with the Land Use Act, which also demands government to give property in mineral resources to the person by whom the mineral resources are lawfully owned, upon their recovery in accordance with provisions of the act.

Allowing unauthorized persons to wield arms has far reaching implications for national security. Recent experiences in Sierra Leone, Congo DRC and Central Africa Republic where external forces supplied arms for rebel forces against the central authorities in exchange for mining rights led to killings and the atrocious amputation of limbs of hundreds of civilians.

Therefore, as a priority and in the interest of our national security, the federal government and its agencies should get a firm grip on this situation. This can be enabled through mounting of increased security at all land borders used by the foreign elements for the circulation and trafficking of illicit small arms and light weapons to our country. But the issue of the ownership of the gold in Zamfara must be urgently addressed

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