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Reps Order Probe Of N8trn Unremitted Gold Tax

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The House of Representatives yesterday mandated its ad-hoc committee investigating the solid mineral funds to within six weeks, investigate the revenue leakages in the solid mineral sector between 2012 and 2017.  The committee would also investigate the activities of the ministry of mines and steel development in curtailing and tracking all mineral movement within and outside Nigeria. Chairman , House Committee on Nigeria – USA Relations, Hon. Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma, in a motion alleged that over $50billion, which is about N8trillion was lost in gold tax revenue and illegal mining in the last five years. Agbonayinma while leading debate on the motion, observed the need to diversify from reliance on crude oil to alternative sources of revenue to cushion the effects of the nation’s dwindling oil revenue.

He described the mining sector as a key driver in national economic development as Nigeria has the fourth largest reserve of bitumen in the world and the second largest Iron ore deposits in Africa, as well as abundant coal resources. He expressed disappointment that the mining industry in Nigeria was under-utilised, leading to importation of minerals that could produce domestically. According to Agbonayinma, reports in 2016 by Signal One International (SOI), a privately- owned United States Company, Nigeria has lost over $50 billion in gold revenue tax over the last 2 years as a result of illegal mining and exportation of unprocessed gold. “The former minister of mines and steel development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, identified inadequate tracking as key challenges to effective monitoring of revenue leakages in the nation’s mining sector,” he stated.

He said that reports from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) indicated that in 2014 and 2015, Nigeria lost about $9 billion to illegal mining operations and gold exportation. He noted that the current average price of $1,200 per ounce of gold in the international market, which amounts to an unaccounted sum of $4,232,400 per day and $1,544,826,000 per annum, considering that one kilogram is equal to 35.27 ounces, going by international rates. Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Aminu Shagari, in his contribution, explained that the former minister , Fayemi had declared illegal mining as one of the key challenges hindering the development of Nigeria’s mining industry. Shagari also linked the recent violence and killings to illegal mining activities. “In fact some of the recent killings are linked to illegal mining. There should be ways of curbing the excesses,” he said.

In his own contribution, chairman, Committee on Climate Change, Hon Sam Onuigbo, said that illegal mining was also causing environmental hazard. Also, an ad-hoc committee of the House of Representatives investigating the huge debts owed by International Oil Companies (IOCs) to indigenous contractors have been directed to investigate the processes of marginal oil fields license acquisition. The House at yesterday’s plenary also directed the committee to investigate the financial proceeds from successful bids, remittance and non-remittance of revenues by the licensed operators into the federal accounts. In addition, the committee was also directed to probe operations of licensed marginal fields operators as well as the strategic alliance agreement between the IOCs, investors and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) in the operations of marginal oil fields.

The member representing Yenagoa/Kolokuma/Opokuma federal constituency of Bayelsa State, Hon Diri Douye , in another motion of urgent national importance, urged the House to investigate the process and financial proceeds of licensing rounds of Nigeria’s marginal fields between 2001 – 2017. Diri observed that despite policy initiatives of the federal government, development of oil and gas fields was lagging, as most were battling with issues of funding, social, political, environmental and technical issues. He also observed that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had in 2014, stated that the marginal oil fields licenses awarded to indigenous companies in 2003, which were yet to be developed by their owners would be revoked by March 2015. This according to him has not been effected.

“One year after, the DPR is yet to carry out the planned revocation of licenses of undeveloped marginal oil fields,” he said. The motion noted that more than one decade after the award if the first marginal oil mining leases (OML), the combined production volume of the MFOs were yet to make any significant impact in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.According to him, the MFO currently accounts for less than 4 per cent of Nigeria’s crude output. Diri expressed concern that some major IOCs have either abandoned or divested from MOF, which prompted the NPDC to retain oil fields divested from major IOCs in the past without output. “The NPDC with no capacity to cope with the operations of these oil fields has gone into strategic alliance agreement with various investors, which has not been too transparent,” he stated. He however noted that the situation has resulted to huge revenue losses to the federation as royalties, taxes and other financial proceeds accruable from the oil fields are not remitted.



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