President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) to provide a six-month progress report on the Solid Minerals Development Fund, designed to capture accruals from investments.
The directive, according to a statement by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, is to deepen probity and best practices in the mining sector.
During a briefing yesterday by the Steering Committee and Management Team of PAGMI at the State House, Abuja, the President charged the body to scale up operations in the sector by ensuring that investments go beyond artisanal and small scale levels.
He said: “The PAGMI Management Team should now develop innovative ways to move PAGMI to the next level to ensure the Nigerian mining story goes beyond artisanal and small-scale mining.
“I support the steering committee’s target of aggregating three to five tons of gold over the next 12 months, as this will deliver tremendous fiscal and economic benefits to the nation.
“The Solid Minerals Development Fund should work with all relevant government agencies to identify the support and funding needed to deliver on this aggregation target.
“Now that you have successfully delivered a pilot scheme in Kebbi State, it is time to roll out and expand sustainably across other states. The government is committed to providing all the necessary support required.”
Buhari directed the team to ensure that the fund fasttracks the work of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative. He said all stakeholders must conclude ongoing assignments of recommending a portion of accruals to be dedicated to the fund.
Buhari continued: “The dedication of a portion of accruals to create a sustainable income stream for the Solid Minerals Development Fund is essential to delivering the mandates assigned to the fund. The development of a sustainable stream for the fund will conclude the implementation of the fund’s establishment Act, which is a key focus area for this administration.
“This initiative is of great pride to me because through our intervention, we can reach hardworking Nigerians in the field, toiling and the quarries under the sun trying to earn an honest living.
“We have been able to protect them from clutches of those who exploit their hard labour, while simultaneously bringing them into the value chain to earn improved income from their hard work. I expect a six-month progress report that will clearly show significant progress by scaling up the programme from its current pilot stage.”
He commended the steering committee and management team under the leadership of the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as chairman and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kaduna State as vice chairman for a good job.
In his remarks, Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah, who led the delegation, said since the validation of the initiative by the President “to address the structural and institutional factors such as rural poverty and lack of alternative livelihood, and difficulty in meeting legal and regulatory requirements that tend to push artisanal gold mining operators deeper into the informal economy,” PAGMI has created the opportunity for formalisation and mainstreaming of artisanal miners, giving them the economic opportunities to live.
He said between 2012 and 2018, $5 billion worth of gold had been illegally smuggled out of Nigeria. The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Solid Mineral Development Fund, Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi, pleaded with the President to, among others, increase the capitalisation of the fund to assist states needing assistance to enable the committee achieve its five-ton target.