GOLD AS A COMMON WEALTH
By Zailani Bapoa
For a very long time, the land of Zamfara has witnessed gradual, but progressively negative development, no thanks to the massive exploitation of the innocent souls of this historical land of golden bliss. It is a metamorphose of an earlier exploitation of the people under repressive time predating Sheikh Usman bn Fodio era when men, women and children were forced into inhuman Labour in the name of slavery. With the liberation of the people by Islamic justice and later re-inforced by British wisdom.
However, the destruction of the very fundamental justice brought about by the Fodio jihad by the British created what the vintage Ali Mazrui called the triple heritage. This situation actually left the people with no certainty and, hence, tripod concepts without a definite direction. From it sprang our present confused and blurry vision of what is right and what is wrong in terms of social justice. In a democracy, where supposedly justice is provided for the people, yet the people are living like slaves in their own land. In Zamfara state, the common man has been exploited over time for what God has given him but denied by fellow men.
Yes, the gold. And of course, the other precious stones, some of which are more precious than the gold itself. I was amazed when I once read a report last two months that of all the 35 different types of solid minerals found in Nigeria, 17 are found in Zamfara state. That’s more than half. Indeed, there is gold in Zamfara and there’s allurvial gold, qwartz, granite, chromite, galena, silver, lead, zinc, gem stone, tin, silica sand, tantalite and many more. The crude oil Nigeria discovered in the 1960s was officially proclaimed by the Federal Government. It’s excavation, processing and marketing was structured by the government. It is now being exploited for the benefit of all Nigerians with special consideration to the derivation areas.
In Zamfara state, Governor Bello Mohammed has met a rather uncoordinated mining sector. The wealth discovered was like a mystery to many. The more they looked, the less they see. The Youth in these areas are exploited for cheap labour while the common people take the brunt of the environmental hazards such as the popularly and widely reported lead poisoning in the last few years. Governor Matawalle has come with a new law in town. A law to revolutionalise the mining sector in the state.
Under the new structure, the mining of solid minerals in the state will no longer be done on impulse. It will be a licenced business that will have a set of laws and indemnity governing its operations. The state Government will establish an agency that is charged with the administration of this sector. Among the juicy part of this arrangement is that the Government will generate revenue from the sector, the business of marketing, selling and buying of the resources will be concentrated in the state in order to boost commerce and it will generate employment opportunities for a good number of youth in the state.
It is along this arrangement that Governor Bello Mohammed took his mission to President Muhammadu Buhari for blessing and Federal Government support. While with the President, Governor Bello Mohammed explained his mission to the Presidency, a mission of hope. It was a mission from a rather poor state in terms of fiscal comparison but has the potential of being the richest state in the country. And that is exactly what Governor Bello Mohammed is trying to transform Zamfara state into. President Muhammadu Buhari was Visibly overwhelmed and even took to his social media handles of Facebook and twitter to endorse this effort as well as challenged other Governors of Nigeria to borrow a leaf from Matawalle.
In the present transformation attempt to empower the people of Zamfara from their God-given wealth and enrich the Government, a turn around is now in the offing. In the past, the solid minerals in the state were mined and smuggled out of the state and the country like nothing was happening. Today, every miner will be officially licenced.
Moreover, the licenced miners will have to process their gold and other resources in the state, market it and sell it in the state thereby generating employment for the youth, improving commerce in the state, creating a revenue base for the state and federal Government through taxation and boosting tourism as another source of revenue for the state Government.
Already, Governor Bello Mohammed has set the machinery in motion for the establishment of the agency for the regulations of this sector, the enforcement of laws governing mining activities in the state, registrations and licencing of miners and awareness creation for those who genuinely want to partner with the Government in the mutual exploitation of wealth for common good not for a few.
When Governor Bello Mohammed visited China, Russia and other countries abroad last year, one of the central focus of his bi-lateral talks with business groups led by their Government officials was how to employ modern technology in the mining sector of the state. The method employed today is crude, less result oriented and has more environmental hazards and devastation. Already, several companies have indicated their interest to partner with the Government, some of which will soon sign memoranda of understanding with the state government. They will equally come down with value added projects such as generating power, not only to the mining sites, but to the communities in the state.
Indeed, God has endowed Zamfara state with wealth no other state has in Nigeria. The state has no business being poor. It is rich; but its richness was cornered by a few while the majority could not even prove the wealth exist in reality. Majority of Zamfara state indigenes saw their gold for the first time when Matawalle took a sample to Mr President last week. Today, Governor Bello Mohammed has shown the way. He has proved to all that the wealth is real and that it is a common wealth. With the support of the federal government and more importantly, the people of Zamfara state, the wealth so endowed will henceforth be to the benefit of everyone.
Bappa writes from Gusau.