By Sunday Iduh
Benue State government has suspended mining activities in Kwande Local Government Area with immediate effect.
The Governor of the state, Samuel Ortom announced this Thursday during a security meeting with stakeholders from Kwande LGA held at the Benue Peoples House, Makurdi.
According to the governor, “there is a development in Kwande that has become a security threat to the local government and the entire state. This threat is as a result of gold mining activities in the area. As the governor of the state, I am aware of my responsibilities.
“As a result of this, we have decided as a government, to suspend all mining activities in Kwande Local Government Area with immediate effect.
“Anyone caught, whether you have license or not will be prosecuted. If you have license, you have to reach the office of the Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Solid Minerals to get a consent which will be transmitted to the local government Chairman and to the community to regularise the procedure before having access to the land.
“We have discussed with all the stakeholders. All of them are concerned as a result of the illegal mining activities going on in Kwande Local Government. There could be genuine miners, who have been granted license by the Federal Government (FG).
“We have no problems with that because we know mining is on the exclusive list and so, it is the responsibility of FG to grant license.
“But there are procedures. Since mining cannot be done in the air but on the land. The Land Use Act vested the responsibility of land administration on the state governor. I am not going to abandon my responsibility,” he stated.
Governor Ortom disclosed that anybody coming to the state for exploration of minerals in the state with FG license must hence forth, pass through the state government and it will be transmitted to the local government and down to the communities. “Due process must be followed in all aspects of mining activities,” he added.
“Through the council chairman, we have discovered that several people who are doing mining activities in Kwande do not even have valid papers, some are foreigners. Some are indigenous people but are doing illegal mining.
He explained that those who have been granted license by FG are free but must go through the procedures, otherwise it becomes a breach which will not be tolerated by the government.
“For us to have a comprehensive list of those who have been granted license, they must register with us and we shall profile them to ascertain their status. This is necessary because, in other parts of the country, mining has become a major security threats and challenge.
“We do not want to fall victim. This is why we are taking these proactive steps to protect genuine miners with licenses and also the citizens of our state,” he said.
The governor stated that a committee would be set up to determine henceforth, how mining activities will be carried out so that there will be a link from the state to the mining sites so that proper profiling of the individuals and companies would be done by the government and the people.
Governor Ortom, who disclosed that similar meetings will be held with other local government areas, where minerals exploration was going on with a view to bringing order and sanity, commended the Kwande Local Government Chairman, Orjii Gbande and the traditional council for the prudent management of the situation.
Senator representing Benue North-East Senatorial District, Senator Gabriel Suswam who also attended the meeting, appealed to traditional rulers, especially those from Kwande Local Government Area to be security conscious, in order not to harbour criminal elements who will infiltrate their communities to exploit the available mineral resources.
The Chairman, Kwande Local Government Council, Orjiir Gbande, in a remark, gave assurances that he will ensure that his people comply with the governor’s warning concerning the issue of illegal mining.
On his part, Tor Kwande, His Royal Highness, Ambrose Iortyer and the Ter Kwande, His Royal Highness, Timothy Ahile, as well as former Chief Judge of Benue State, Justice Terna Puusu (Rtd), in separate remarks commended Governor Ortom for his proactive approach and advised that traditional rulers conduct themselves in accordance with the law.