Nigeria, UAE to track illegal gold trade as FG mulls expansion of N200m small scale miners fund

Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has stated that leakage has become one of the greatest obstacles to the development of Nigeria’s mining industry.

Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development. said this when he appeared on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) flagship Forum on Tuesday in Abuja.

Also he said that considering the success of the N200 million fund disbursement to artisanal miners, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development may expand the programme to benefit more small scale miners.

The federal government in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to track huge illegal movement of gold from Nigeria to Dubai.

According to Adegbite, Nigeria government is currently negotiating a bilateral agreement with the UAE to check every gold entering Dubai from Nigeria.

He noted that huge quantity of gold were being moved from Nigeria illegally on a daily basis to Dubai, adding that the gold passed through UAE police freely unknown to them that royalties were not paid to Nigeria.

“The UAE collect their own charges on gold that arrived in Dubai airport but Nigeria government has told UAE to ask anyone entering Dubai with Nigeria gold to present certificate of exportation got from Nigeria before allowing them to pass.

“We have agreed with UAE to seize any gold from Nigeria without certificate of exportation; we told them that the value of the gold will be shared equally as an incentive for UAE to eradicate illegal exportation of gold from Nigeria to Dubai.

“All we expected from whoever that is travelling from Nigeria to Dubai with our raw gold is to pay royalty to the Nigeria government and such person will be given certificate of exportation.

“The certificate of exportation will be automatically integrated into the Nigeria Customs Services system, our law accepts exportation of gold but royalty must be paid,” he said.

And dwelling on the SSM fund, Adegbite said that the over N3.2 billion mining intervention fund which was domiciled with the Bank of Industry (BOI) was an intervention by the Federal Government to boost mining activities in Nigeria.

He said that the initial fund was N2.5 billion but it had accrued interest in the bank and N200 million out of the interest was disbursed as loan to small scale and artisanal miners.

“When it was set up, it was that from a minimum of N10 million to N100 million maximum people can access at five per cent interest rates, and we have had some success story.

“What we now realised was that there were a lot of small others, artisanal miners, small scale miners, who do not even need up to N10 million, which was the minimum.

“So, they were excluded because you say minimum N10 million, maximum N100 million and you know the way banking is, if you want to take N10 million from a bank, the collateral is times two minimum.

“But there are some artisanal miners there that all they want to enhance their activity is to buy a water pump, so that they have water to wash their oars, so they can bring out what they need a bump of N500,000, that is all they need someone to buy for them.

“We excluded them by saying that the minimum you can borrow is N10 million, so we set up another scheme, under that.”

According to him, some miners could not access the fund because of the stringent conditions that the bank put in, but with the N200 million sub-fund, it could give a maximum of two million Naira to individuals and minimum of N200,000.

He, however, said that the only condition attached was to get a guarantor on Grade Level 14 in the Federal Civil Service or its equivalent in the services.

“This is to allow all those lower end people to benefit from this new scheme that I designed when I realised what was going on and it is catching on.

“A lot of these lower people who need small money are already approaching the bank for that.

“There was a programme in the past that was not very successful, so that is why this time around we gave the money to the bank.

“It is not your share of the national cake, it is something to help you, it is the cheapest fund in Nigeria today at five per cent.

“So, if it works out, yes we can expand that and maybe make more money available up to half a billion, but we need to be careful.

“The average Nigerian thinks that this is my share of the national cake, so when they go to borrow such funds they do not want to pay back.”

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