There is no contesting the fact that Nigeria has a huge deposit of solid mineral resources. Virtually all the 36 states have one form of mineral deposit or the other including large gold deposits in some parts of Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states.
A recent study reveal that Nigeria had an average of 21.37 tonnes of gold deposit from 2000 to 2018, and reached an all-time high of 21.40 tonnes in the first quarter of 2018. Unfortunately, despite having this enormous gold deposit, absence of big investors and illegal mining has deprived the country of the benefit of its vast but largely untapped gold potentials.
It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $9 billion annually to illegal mining and gold exportation with about 100 kilogramme of gold said to be lost every day as a result of illegal mining. Indeed, the need to fully harness these enormous potentials informed government’s decision to set up the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI)
Launched in 2019, PAGMI is an all-inclusive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development programme aimed at fostering the formalisation and integration of artisanal gold mining activities. Interestingly, one state which has a large deposit of gold and has keyed into the gold mining initiative is Zamfara State.
Circumstantial evidence indicate that Zamfara is blessed with abundant gold deposits which remained largely untapped. There is the conjecture that the senseless killings that defined the state during the administration of former Governor Abdulazeez Yari, were partly fuelled by the activities of illegal gold miners.
Recently, the Zamfara State Governor, Muhammad Bello Matawalle said his administration has entered into a N5 billion gold supply deal with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He further said that the state government would, at an agreed time, supply the gold equivalent of the amount.
Speaking during the presentation of 31-kilogramme Zamfara processed gold, Governor Matawalle said “Following the global acceptance of the high quality of the gold dug from the state, the apex bank approached us with the deal, which we believe is good business.
The governor also said that the state’s gold reserve would be deposited in an undisclosed designated place, which could be utilised in times of need. “We have to diversify our state economy, especially with the bitter economic experience we went through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, collapse in oil prices and other economic uncertainties cutting across the globe.
“In gold, however, we expect better and higher returns than in other stocks because there is a higher multiplier effect in gold and it will enhance the gains of our local miners towards the attainment of the Zamfara of our dream,” he said and added “the Gold was wholly mined and refined by our local miners. It is a measure we are taking to ensure that the mineral resources in Zamfara benefit the people.
Matawalle said that the government will continue to save gold for the state in designated banks, and ensure that the state gets the respect it deserves by having the security needed for any business transaction.
“The situation today is that a few people mine the gold, take it abroad and trade it out there without a single benefit for the people in the state. This is what we want to change,” the governor pointed out.
In the opinion of this newspaper, the declining revenue allocation to states arising from the shrinking price of crude oil coupled with the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy has underscored the need for leaders to think outside the box.
Undoubtedly, in our view, the latest focus on gold mining by the Zamfara State government is provoked by the need to shore up its revenue, create jobs and contribute to addressing some of the underlying factors responsible for the deplorable security situation in the state.
It smacks of irresponsibility for states to have mineral resources that have the potentials of shoring up their revenue, create employment and contribute immensely to addressing infrastructural challenges but yet allow its citizens to wallow in abject poverty and deprivation.
Increasingly, concerns are being shifted to the demands for economically viable states because the largesse that states often get from the federation account is shrinking. It is from this perspective that we consider Zamfara State’s renewed focus on gold mining as not only commendable but also the only option available for the governor to change the narrative of poverty, poor health index, high level of illiteracy and other negative indices which have unfortunately defined the state.
For long, owing to directionless leadership, Zamfara State, in spite of its huge mineral endowment, has continued to lead from behind in virtually all the governance indices. It is therefore, an understatement to say that the time is ripe for the current leadership to change the narrative. This renewed focus on gold mining may well be one of the ways the government can leverage on to ensure the citizens benefit optimally from the natural endowments of the state.