Zamfara, CBN N5b Gold Deal Controversy: Isoko Group Kicks Over NASS Grave-yard Silence

The Isoko Advancement Network (IAN), a flagship socio-political organisation, has expressed disappointment with the leadership of the National Assembly for “blowing a muted trumpet” over the motion raised on the floor of the Senate by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, regarding the sale of gold worth N5billion by Zamfara State to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

BIGPEN reports that, while contributing to a debate on the general principles of the 2021 Appropriation Bill, Omo-Agege had said that it was wrong for the Federal Government to allow Zamfara State to sell the gold bar to the CBN for N5b against constitutional provisions.

He said that the action of the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle on the sale of the gold bar to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was a ‘breach of the constitution.’

According to the senator, the gold found in any state belongs to the federal government, adding that the revenue generated from such mineral resources like gold are to be shared among all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Omo-Agege, who is Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, drew the Senate’s attention to the fact that revenues from oil resources in the Niger Delta had always gone to the Federation Account.

He said: “Not too long ago, we saw the Governor of Zamfara State come before the CBN to present a gold bar worth close to about N5billion. The gold bar was presented for sale to the CBN. Mr. President, our people are beginning to wonder who owns this gold that is being sold to the CBN.

“They don’t sell oil in any of the Niger Delta states. I am wondering why the governor of a state should be selling gold bar from Zamfara State to the CBN. There are two problems with that. We believe that whatever revenue that ought to come from that transaction belongs to the entire country and not to the state government. That is number one and we should actually look into that. That is an area we really need to develop. There is a lot of revenue that could come from there that will take the burden from these international borrowings.”

He noted that revenue from that transaction would have accrued to the entire country instead of the state government and urged the Senate to review the deal, pointing out that it would help the country to develop faster.

According to relevant section of the constitution, item 39 under the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states that mines and minerals including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas are exclusively under the control of the federal government.

Also, the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, which was passed into law on March 16, 2007, to repeal the Minerals and Mining Act, No. 34 of 1999 for the purposes of regulating the exploration and exploitation of solid materials in Nigeria vested the control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria in the state, and prohibits unauthorised exploration or exploitation of minerals.

Reacting to the development during her extraordinary meeting, IAN, in a statement signed by its Chairman, Chief Paul John Odhomor, on Thursday, noted that the deafening silence of the Senators by deliberately refusing to debate the issue on the floor of the Senate sends dangerous signals to the people of the Niger Delta region that contributes so much to the national GDP.

“The IAN is aware that solid minerals is one of the items in the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) like oil and gas. It is incredible that the man from Gusau can sell gold directly to the apex bank and an Isoko man from the Niger Delta cannot sell crude oil and gas directly to the NNPC”, the group said.

The IAN frowns at this negative development and warned that this kind of inequalities in the handling of the exploitation of natural resources in Nigeria can trigger youth restiveness in the Delta.

The IAN noted that the youths of the Niger Delta region are already agitated as there was no justification for the criminalization of their activities with oil and gas facilities in the region while their Zamfara counterparts approaches the vault of the CBN as off takers of their gold.

The Isoko Advancement Network called on the Federal Government to implement relevant policies towards solid mineral exploration and exploitation with a view to improving the balance sheet of the Country.

Meanwhile, IAN has commended the youths and all those who have shown character and dexterity in the protests for the ban of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The IAN while commending the Nigerian Police Force for heeding to the call by ordinary Nigerians, urged the Force to take further steps towards building a strong Police Force through forward looking reforms. The IAN pointed out that international best practices in policing which supports training and improved conditions of service and community policing should be reinforced.