State governments are now free to explore and exploit the mineral resources in their domains provided such is done legally without interfering with locations already given to other stakeholders, the Federal Government has said.
The government stated that although it 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.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stated these in Abuja while playing host to the Lagos State Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Wale Oluwo, who led a team from the state to tender some requests before the Federal Government.
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.
Fayemi told the visiting team that the Federal Government would be interested in the minerals found in Lagos State.
He said, “We will look at it and verify it independently and see what can then follow based on your request and for the overall interest of the country. Some of these mineral resources that you have found in commercial quantities are Greenfield.
“If it is Greenfield, there will be ways of going about it so that we can achieve the original point I made, which is that the state can benefit and if the state chooses to explore it, there is nothing that bars the state from doing that.”
On the minerals in Lagos, the commissioner said limestone, silica, clay and a few other resources abound in large commercial quantities in the country’s largest industrial city state.
Oluwo said, “We estimate that we have limestone in the region of 12 million metric tonnes around the Epe area. We also estimate that we have silica sand of up to 200 billion cubic metric tonnes around the Ibeju-Lekki area. And the third one, which is clay, is about 180 billion cubic metric tonnes around the Lagos East.
“We’ve been carrying out various geological surveys, both aerial and on the ground, and we believe that data is key. So, when you are in a position to make that decision as to gathering data with respect to where solid minerals can be identified, we are assuring you that in Lagos, we will put our resources behind your efforts.”