The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by elder statesman and former Information Minister, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, has expressed discontent over what it perceives as discriminatory treatment by the Federal Government towards artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta.
According to BIGPEN NIGERIA, (https://bigpenngr.com), the group’s appeal for justice follows the government’s move to legalize activities of miners in the solid minerals sector, despite similar initiatives in the Niger Delta being labeled illegal and treated as criminal operations.
PANDEF’s concern was raised in the wake of a Solid Minerals Summit, co-hosted by the Solid Minerals Development Fund and the African Finance Corporation in Abuja on October 17, 2023.
The summit concluded with a plan to extend financial aid to previously illegal miners while also formalizing their operations with official recognition and licensing.
The group pointed out the Federal Government’s past endorsement of solid mineral resource mining, citing the launch of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) in 2020.
However, they question why similar support is not extended to artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta, which are regularly subjected to damaging operations by the Nigerian military.
While PANDEF acknowledges the government’s efforts to diversify the national economy away from oil and gas dependency, it criticizes the continued discrimination against the Niger Delta people, whose attempts to develop local technologies are denounced as illegal and treated as criminal operations.
The group referred back to a 2017 promise made by then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who on a tour to the Niger Delta, assured that artisanal refineries would be transformed into legal entities. Six years later, the group laments, no such action has been taken.
PANDEF, in a statement signed Dr. Ken Robinson, its National Publicity Secretary, called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to rectify this perceived double standard, emphasizing that the funds being used to regularize the activities of illegal miners are sourced from the Niger Delta.
The group trusts that necessary steps will be taken by the Federal Government to address the perceived injustice.