On January 13 the federal government, through the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, gave state governors the leeway to commence exploring mineral resources in their states to boost their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR.
While playing host to the Lagos State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Wale Oluwo, the minister declared that although the federal government had exclusive rights to mine minerals across the country, the constitution encourages states to either set up their own investment corporations or partner private investors to exploit minerals in their domains, provided such is done legally without interfering with locations already given to other stakeholders.
Reacting to statements by the commissioner on the enormous minerals in Lagos, Fayemi said the state was free to explore and exploit the resources since such activities would provide jobs for Nigerians and increase the federal government’s revenue through the payment of royalties.
He said, “that is one of the points I have tried to emphasise about governance when people talk about the exclusivity of the mineral rights in the Nigerian constitution. Yes, it is exclusive; but there is absolutely nothing in the law; in fact, it is being encouraged in the law for states to either set up their own investment corporations or go into partnership with the private sector in order to exploit what is available to them in their states.
“This is provided the coordinate has not been given to another interested stakeholder before application comes from the state. This is very important for you to know. So, our primary interest is that these resources are explored and exploited.
“Once you do that within the law, the government will at least get royalties from you, get taxes paid legitimately, have people employed in this area. This achieves our objective of alternative revenue generation for the country and job creation for our people.”
The minister stressed that there was no way the federal government would succeed in minerals development if it failed to collaborate with the states.
“Yes, mineral exploitation is exclusive to the federal government, but the reality is that land ownership is also exclusive to the state governments,” he added.
The decision of the federal government to allow the states to explore mineral resources in their states, despite the constitutional constraints that vest the power on the federal government, is among the far reaching recommendations of the 2014 National Conference organised by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Since President Muhammadu Buhari came into office, there have been clarion calls from well meaning Nigerians and civil society groups to the President not to sacrifice the report on the altar of politics.
President Buhari’s administration has kept studied silence on this request, probably because the National Conference and the baby that came out of it was the product of a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, administration. However, cursory look at the All Progressives Congress, APC, manifesto and constitution (which was drafted after the 2014 National Conference) is in tandem with most of the recommendations of the conference. Though the APC did not participate in the conference, all APC governors sent delegates to the conference to represent the interests of their states. The party has consistently maintained that the National Conference, which its governors sent delegates to participate, was a jamboree and waste of public resource.
APC’s grandstanding on the implementation conference report has not received applause from any quarter in the country as the demand for the implementation continues to mount.
Among the prominent Nigerians that are pushing for the implementation of the report is the founder of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare.
In a state of the nation address in his church entitled: ‘Road map to successful change,’ Bakare argued that though the All Progressives Congress, APC, refused to participate in the exercise, the report was done by Nigerians.
He said: “Let it be known that in spite of the rejection of our pre-election call for a transition period, Nigeria is now a nation in transition. This transition period will predictably be followed by a revolution which will, in turn, be followed by a reformation that will eventually usher in the desired transformation of our nation.
“A key outcome of this process will be the emergence of a true People’s Constitution that will facilitate national integration and provide a suitable governmental framework for the Nigeria of our dreams – a truly federal state with such powers vested exclusively on the federal government as are necessary to firmly and prosperously knit together the federating units upon which residual powers shall be vested.
“That promise of true federalism is contained in Article 14 of the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration, which was unanimously adopted and signed by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, including myself, as the basis of our union.
“I appeal to Mr. President not to ignore the report of the 2014 National Conference! God went ahead of you to provide a navigational map with which you can begin to steer the ship of state to a safe destination.
“The APC may have refused to participate in the 2014 National Conference, but the report of that conference is completely in tandem with the promise of the APC Manifesto.
“The APC Manifesto and the report of the 2014 National Conference are a tag team in waiting, not a thesis and antithesis. Just as this government adopted the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, GIFMIS, and the Treasury Single Account, TSA, which were conceived by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the Buhari-led government should embrace the report of the 2014 National Conference.
“That report may have been produced under a PDP government but it is not a PDP document. It is a Nigerian people’s document. All the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, East, West, North, and South endorsed the report without a single vote on any issue.”
Though President Buhari has not come out with policy decision on the conference report, his body language as can be deciphered from the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, shows he is at home with some of the recommendations of the conference. However, since most of the recommendations are in tandem with the APC manifesto and constitution, political observers are of the view that President Buhari needs to summon the political will to do the needful and breathe life into the conference report.
With the leeway given to state governors to explore mineral resources in their states as recommended by the 2014 national conference, it is now obvious that the Buhari administration is already implementing the report through back channel. There is general consensus across the country that the administration has absolutely nothing to lose if it comes out in the open to formally adopt and commence implementation of the recommendations. Rather than diminish Buhari, such a move will project him as a statesman that has the capacity to rise above petty party politics for the greater national interest.

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