Has Northern Nigeria become another Congo DRC?

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By Oduche Azih

Gradually, very gradually, Nigerians, especially those occupying the northern fringes, are arriving at the territory of Congo DRC, the highly ungoverned spaces of the Eastern Region of Kivu. That is without boarding any means of long-distance transportation. Yes, Congo is here on our doorsteps!

Hear this: Three confirmed killed, one injured as another mining pit collapses in Niger State (News Express, June 14, 2024).

In the incident of a week ago, some 50 miners were trapped underground in a mine collapse in a site in Galadimakogo in Shiroro. Fortunately, only one person was killed. That’s one too many.

As the state and federal emergency and rescue agencies descended on these sites, no official mention was routinely made regarding the illegality of these highly lucrative operations. Away from the immediate expression of sadness at the human loss, crocodile tears for all practical purposes, our government officials, generally ignorant and indolent, have been complicit in these operations with the command structures of the Police, Army, NSCDC, and perhaps the DSS pressed into services to provide protection for the operators sponsoring the artisanal miners.

Of course, cash changes hands regularly!

All efforts are geared towards the avoidance of the evolution of these “scratching ground” operations into a strictly formal mining sector.

Who wants to contribute to government revenue?

“Our gold, tantalum, cassiterite, gypsum, etc. are for us; meanwhile the Niger Delta oil and gas are for everybody!” #NinasIsRight!

It has been for a very long time.

To distract attention, our government functionaries will once in a while rail against the Chinese and others fanned out across all the hamlets, rocky outcrops and rivulets in Nigeria searching for mineral values. Note that for every Chinese, there are a dozen Nigerian big or not so big men playing the tune.

Nobody should mind the sound bites originating from the new Minister of Solid Minerals. He is in over his head. Meanwhile this sad situation was what he met on the ground. It is clearly not his fault but that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and previous administrations. I doubt if the remaining three years are enough to groom Dele Alake to be useful on his beat.

Meanwhile I hope against hope that very soon somebody would brief Nigerians about really serious proposals on surveys, exploration and mining of various minerals in Nigeria by the really big players. Until we can do that, we are merely wasting our time holding press conferences.

Let me repeat a few names here – Goldfield Ashanti, Billiton, BHP, Rio Tinto, Glencore, Anglo American, Freeport-McMoRan, Vale, Zijin Mining Group Ltd, Coal India, Codelco (Chile), etc.

Since the Chinese are all over the place, I decided to list only one. Meanwhile their names are not easily recognizable to most knowledgeable Nigerians.

Glencore is probably too busy raking in profits from the deliberately dysfunctional Nigerian Petroleum sector that it wouldn’t want to mess up its accounting with the riskier, longer-term, narrower margin of mining, at least not here in Nigeria with policy blankness and see-sawing.

I added Codelco Chile, a huge copper miner, with no idea if indeed it has a global footprint outside of Chile where its hands are full. It’s for nostalgic reasons. In summer 1978, I worked for Phelps Dodge Inc. whose assets and that of others in Chile had been absorbed into Codelco. That was the President Allende era nationalization.  Phelps Dodge, Kennecott and others long ago became part of the Freeport-McMoRan Group.

I have not mentioned the Finnish, Swedish and others operating mining concessions as far afield as Mongolia for gold, copper and coal.

If our Minister Dele Alake and the government that he represents are serious, he should know where to go and who he should be talking to.

Enough of this charade!

  • Engr. Oduche Azih wrote in from Isolo, Lagos State


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