The Federal Government is purportedly monitoring some unnamed powerful Nigerians alleged to be sponsoring terrorism in areas where the nation’s minerals abound.

This Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, who opened up when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals for the 2024 budget defence in Abuja, noted that both kinetic and non-kinetic methods are being activated to arrest the menace.

The minister’s current stand negates what he had earlier told Nigerians on two previous occasions.

Recall, in October, the minister told state house correspondents shortly after a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that foreign illegal miners were sponsoring banditry in Nigeria.

Also, while receiving a delegation of the Nigeria-China Chamber of Mines led by its National President, Dr Olugbenga Ajala, in his office in October, Alake used the opportunity to warn foreign operators, who sponsor banditry to execute illegal mining in the country, to desist from the act.

However, in his meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday, the minister did a volte-face when he said a lot of banditry and terrorism activities were sponsored by illegal miners, who are not people who pick gold on the ground, but powerful individuals in the country.

He said most of the illegal miners were not foreigners, adding that foreigners could be seen as symptoms.

Alake further added that the most disturbing aspect was that most of the foreigners engaged in illegal mining in the country had no proper immigration documents.

He said: “One pernicious discovery that we made, Mr Chairman, is that a lot of these banditry, terrorisms, insecurities that we identified in this sector are actually sponsored by illegal miners. These illegal miners are not artisanal miners or people who pick gold rusts on the ground.

“These are heavy and powerful individuals in our country, and they are Nigerians, not foreigners. Yes, you can see foreigners as symptoms and not diseases. Nigerians are the powers behind those foreigners that you see. We are identifying them, and we are employing various strategies, both kinetic and non-kinetic with the artisanal, who are at the lower ladder of illegal mining”.

He said his ministry is liaising with the Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies in the country, with inclusion of the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to boost security in areas where solid minerals abound in the country.

“We have to use this mechanism so that we don’t just deploy men and materials into a wide expanse of land or bush. But now with the introduction of artificial intelligence, we’ll be able to pinpoint flash points, and then deploy men and materials more efficiently and effectively to combat insecurities and insurrections,” he stated.

Disclosing that Nigeria has solid minerals estimated at $700 billion, the minister pleaded with the committee to consider the amount budgeted for the ministry in the 2024 budget proposal.

He said: “We did make a very appreciable budgetary proposal. But when the envelope came, you understand these things more than us. What we saw in the envelope was quite discouraging. In fact, the figure we were given cannot even engage in one single item on our agenda. And the most important is exploration.

“Without generating geo-scientific data, which we will use in convincing foreign investors, we will just not be doing ourselves justice. We need a lot of funding in exploration and as you have rightly mentioned, it is the business of the government to embark on exploration.

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