The Minister of Solid Mineral, Dele Alake, has alleged that influential Nigerians behind illegal mining are also the ones behind armed criminality and banditry in the country.

Alake disclosed this in Abuja when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals for the defence of 2024 budget.

He said “A lot of banditry and terrorism are sponsored by illegal miners. They are not people who pick gold on the ground but powerful individuals in the country.

“Nigerians are those powerful people behind them; we are identifying them with both kinetic and non-kinetic means. We have encouraged those petty illegal miners to form cooperatives.”

The minister stressed that for mining to generate the requisite revenue, there is a need to have a formal structure that the multinational could deal with, just like the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.

Alake explained that the approach of the ministry under his leadership would be different from NNPCL, stressing that the structure being proposed for Nigeria Mining Cooperation would be primarily private sector-driven.

According to him, “Nigeria will also have its equity. This would mean that no government after could destabilize the structure.”

The minister urged the chairman of the committee to support the process, adding that this would help change mining in the country.

“If we are given that amount of money, I can tell you that what the ministry will contribute will outweigh other ministries, including what we are deriving from oil.

“We can return trillions to the coffers of this country as revenue if we are given such a budget as proposed,” Alake noted

The chairman of the committee, Hon. Gaza Gbefwi, said that the solid minerals sector remained the last hope for the country to attain the level of diversity it required.

He, however, said that the funds appropriated to the sector in the 2024 budget were grossly inadequate.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has pledged to address environmental degradation through legislation and policy review.

Speaking at the joint session, The Chairman House Committee on Environment, Hon Julius Pondi, disclosed this at the inaugural meeting of the committee on Tuesday in Abuja.

He noted that flood, pollution, erosion, deforestation, and all kinds of disaster were on the increase, adding that this called for urgent steps to be taken to forestall further degradation.

The chairman stressed that globally, countries are making frantic efforts to salvage and remedy what was left of their environment, adding that he was glad that Nigeria was following suit.

Pondi added: “On our part as a committee, we shall be looking into laws that need to be amended and policies that have outstayed their relevance and see how we can bring about positive changes and solutions to the challenges staring at us.

“What we are going through is not peculiar to us but a global problem which requires all hands to be on deck to achieve results.

“We are privileged to be part of finding solutions to these challenges and giving our constituents and the nation at large hope of a better tomorrow and we will do all we can to achieve results.”