Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State has said non-Nigerians operating in the country's solid minerals sector are earning big, leaving citizens with peanuts.

Sule stated this at a public policy dialogue on minerals and mining legislation in Nigeria, organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Solid Minerals at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja, on Monday.

He called for institutional reforms to change the fortunes of the sector for the benefit of Nigerians.

He said: “A community in Nasarawa received some kind of compensation of a very small amount of N700 million. They were so excited, but that was nothing compared to when lithium cost about $76,000 per metric ton.

“If we are serious about the future of Nigeria’s economic situation, we must reform what we call the sound mineral sector and if we must reform, we must design policies and reform them to benefit Nigerians. If we don’t do that, we’re just messing around.”

Chairman of the House Solid Minerals Committee, Jonathan Gaza, said the Nigerian Minerals and Minerals Act (Amendment) Bill being considered proposes five percent of total revenue from all minerals extracted to host communities .

He said the bill, when passed, will allow for the establishment of an Environmental and Mine Inspection Agency to provide deeper oversight of mining activities and bridge the gap between the federal and state governments to empower the Mineral Resources Committee and Environmental Management for effective action and joint supervision.

“The law establishing a Solid Minerals Development Company allocates 75 percent ownership to the private sector and 25 percent to the Nigerian federation. Community Development and the Environment are really prioritized in the bill. The Petroleum Industry Law sets aside 3 percent of its annual operating expenses for host communities.

“In the bill, we reserve 5 percent of the revenue from all minerals extracted for host communities, and this is due to the informality of the sector. We believe it can be reviewed and improved through this program,” he said.

Declaring dialogue open, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, said the bill, if approved, would mark a turning point for the country's mineral wealth, stressing that the country's vast mineral resources remained in large part unexplored and unfairly ignored due to oil dependence.

Kalu highlighted that the challenges of insecurity, inadequate infrastructure and lack of skilled labor continued to work against the development of the solid mineral sector, adding that the challenges would be addressed by the proposed amendment bill.

“Despite boasting more than 40 commercially viable minerals, the mining sector contributes just 0.3 percent to our Gross Domestic Product. Our duty today is to turn the tide. There are signs of renewed vigor in our mining industry, fueled by a collective desire to diversify our economy, create jobs and unlock the immense potential that exists beneath our soil.

“The Mining Industry Development Roadmap 2016-2025, which aims to increase the sector's contribution to GDP to 3 percent by 2025, is already showing progress. Projects like the Segilola Gold Project in Osun State, governed by a private sector-led perspective, are injecting millions of dollars into our economy and attracting much-needed investment,” he highlighted.