The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) said it has noted the efforts by the Federal Government to promote the solid minerals sector of Nigeria’s national economy.

Specifically, it noted that it has followed the various policy pronouncements on the intention of the government to legalize the activities of all those who are mining various solid minerals around the country, without any formal approvals.

PANDEF queried the Federal Government on the discriminatory treatment against operators of various artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta.

Consequent on the above, PANDEF has demanded for justice on the question of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta.

In a press statement signed by PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Ken Robinson on Wednesday, 18th October, 2023 the group said  it decided to call the attention of Nigerians to this discriminatory practice which has continued to go on particularly arising from the Summit on Solid Minerals which was co-hosted by the Solid Minerals Development Fund and the African Finance Corporation which took place in Abuja, yesterday, Tuesday, 17th October, 2023.

“After that program, it was announced amongst other things that the Fund, which is specially set up to promote the solid minerals sector will very soon extend financing interventions to cater to those who are currently operating as illegal miners. Furthermore, they will all be recognized, registered, and given licenses to improve on their current illegal and artisanal activities.

“We have observed that even, in the past, illegal mining of solid mineral resources has been given an official nod at the highest levels. Especially, with the launch of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) in 2020. We recall how the immediate past Governor of Zamfara State, now Minister of Defence, Bello Matawalle, openly visited the Presidential Villa with large nuggets of gold, said to have been produced from his State.

“Now, the federal government has decided to go one step further by apparently declaring full support for the local artisanal and illegal mining of solid minerals in the country.

“However, PANDEF acknowledges the efforts of the Federal Government to expand the national economy as the dependence on oil and gas for the past 60 years has become overbearing and unsustainable. It is shocking that this same Federal Government continues to discriminate flagrantly against the people of the Niger Delta as their efforts to develop local technologies are tagged illegal refineries and therefore daily burnt and the operators paraded as high-level criminals.

“Even the local efforts in developing technology, which, even the NNPC has not been able to do are often harassed, bombarded, and destroyed, further damaging the badly polluted and degraded environment of the Region. A typical story of throwing away the baby with the bath water!!!

“We recalled that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, then Acting President, had during his tour to the Niger Delta in 2017 promised that the Federal Government will equally promote the development of local technology through the conversion of these artisanal refineries into legal entities, thereby making them viable companies. Similar to the present set of miners who will now enjoy warm handshakes and financial largesse from the Federal Government and its international partners, these refineries were expected to be the foundation for Nigeria’s technological breakthrough in local refining through their conversion to modular refineries.

“Six years down the line, no specific Fund has been set up for these artisanal refineries, none of them has been legalized, and allowed to operate and the operators are being chased about, arrested, and whatever efforts they have made are bombarded and set ablaze by the Nigerian military. PANDEF wonders if there are two sets of laws in Nigeria as the Niger Delta people have always been at the receiving end.

“We call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to reverse this inconsistency, more so, as it is the money from the Niger Delta that is being used to fund the efforts to regularise the activities of illegal miners. What is good for the goose is good for the gander!!

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as an acclaimed democrat with a noted track record of fighting for justice from his days in NADECO, must correct this double standard, and not allow the continued subjugation of the Niger Delta. We trust that the Federal Government of Nigeria will take urgent steps to correct this grave injustice.