Zamfara State Gov. Bello Matawalle has expressed worry about arms proliferation in the state, saying foreigners buying off gold were responsible.
He alleged that the foreigners now exchange arms for gold and other mineral deposits in the state.
Speaking with State House correspondents after he presented some gold bars and other precious stones mined in the state to President Muhammadu Buhari, the governor called for the Federal Government’s intervention in tackling illegal mining in the state.
The gold is expected to become a part of Nigeria’s external reserve after being purchased by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Nigeria had earlier mined, processed, and refined gold under the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative, (PAGMI). The first batch of PAGMI gold was unveiled at a presentation ceremony by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, to President Buhari on July 16, 2020.
Adegbite said at the occasion: “PAGMI will result in the creation of thousands of new mining and formalized jobs, leading to poverty alleviation for many households.
“Under the scheme, artisanal and small scale gold miners will earn more from higher productivity, better recovery rates through the mechanization of operations, and better access to reliable geological information.’’
Matawalle said as part of strategies to checkmate foreigners’ illegal activities in the state, the state government had been buying off the minerals from the locals to boost the economy, promising that the state will go into full-scale mining in the next three months.
He said: “It is very important to us as a government particularly the issue of insecurity, to know the root cause. Zamfara State is blessed with many mineral resources and some people outside the country come in to buy gold and other precious stones and sometimes instead of paying people, they pay back with arms. I did some investigations, the state government will be buying some of these minerals so that we can block that chain.
“So now the state government is engaging the miners, we will be buying some of the gold from them with the limited resources we have. We have many cases of gun-running in Zamfara State. Mr. President is very happy with the system we have initiated and he said whatever support that we need, the federal government is ready to assist us.
“In fact, he has given a directive to the Minister of Solid Minerals to work with the state government to make Nigeria a great country in terms of solid minerals to diversify from oil to solid mineral resources.”
The governor called for the strengthening of local miners to benefit from the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) programme.
On the security situation in Zamfara, he said: “As you must have heard before the narration has changed, you won’t be hearing of mass killings in the state because the security personnel are doing their best. I equally advised the President that calling for the sack of the service chiefs is not the solution.
“Let us support the security agencies and we as governors, we have a big role to play. We just have to support the security agencies no matter what. If the governors are not serious they can’t be able to achieve what they want.
“I told the President that all those are calling for the sack of the security chiefs should think of the best way to support them to perform better instead of sacking them; even if you sack them, you are bringing another one, so let us use the one that we have, we will support them as a government, my state now is at peace and everybody is aware.’’
“We have more than 3,000 policemen going round the mining sites in order to protect the mining site. We have the security agencies, it is just for us as leaders to support them. I believe we will see a lot of changes in terms of security in this country.”