By Enyichukwu Enemanna
At least 1,633 mining licenses have been withdrawn by the Nigerian Government over the inability of title holders to pay statutory fees despite making huge sums of money, the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development announced on Tuesday.
They comprise 536 exploration licences, 279 quarry licences, 787 small scale mining licences and 31 mining leases.
According to the Minister in charge of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake during a press conference in Abuja, the action has become important to create room for people he considers as serious investors to come into the country.
“Every sector requires a governance system that regulates the conduct of its participants, the procedures for entry and exit, the obligations of the Government to participants and the penalties for non-compliance.
“The philosophy of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (NMMA) 2007 is to establish a rational system of administering titles transparently and comprehensively to ensure a seamless transition from reconnaissance to exploration and from exploration to mineral extraction.
“The principal agency for the administration of titles is the Mining Cadastral Office (MCO), which receives applications, evaluates them and issues titles with the approval of the office of the Honourable Minister of Solid Minerals Development.
“Although the MCO has tried to improve its efficiency by adopting new application administration technology, it continues to face challenges in monitoring the compliance of title holders with the most basic requirements for the maintenance of its operations and sustenance of titles.
“It is indeed very unconscionable for corporate bodies making huge profits from mining to refuse to give the government its due by failing to pay their annual service fee. It is indeed a reasonable conjecture that such a company will even be more unwilling to pay royalties and honour its tax obligations to the government.
“The amount the companies are being asked to pay is peanut compared to their own revenue projections. For example, the holder of an exploration title pays only N1,500 per cadastral unit not exceeding 200 units.
“Those holding titles covering more than 200 units pay N2,000 per unit. In short, the larger the area your title covers, the more you pay. This principle was applied to ensure that applicants don’t hold more than they require to explore. With a cadastral unit captured as a square of 500 metres by 500 metres, any law-abiding title holder should not hesitate to perform its obligations.”
He added: “Sections 11 and 12 of the NMMA 2007 state in clear terms as follows: 11. A mineral title shall become liable to revocation where the holder thereof has failed to pay the prescribed fees. 12: In case of default of payment of the annual service fee due to the Mining Cadastre Office, the Mining Cadastre Office shall give a thirty day written default notice to the defaulting party and, if payment is not effected during that period, the Mining Cadastre Office shall record the default and revoke the mineral title.”
“Inspired by the provisions of the Law, the EMC+, the title administration portal of the MCO automatically notifies every mineral title holder of its obligation to pay the annual service as at when due. This is the first administrative alert signal that every mineral title holder receives and should ordinarily prompt the company to settle its obligation.
“In compliance with the law, the MCO on October 4, 2023 began the process of revoking 2,213 titles. These included 795 Exploration titles, 956 Small Scale Mining Licences, 364 Quarry licences and 98 Mining Leases. These were published in the Federal Government Gazette Number 178, Volume 110 of October 10, 2023 with the notice of revocation for defaulting in the payment of Annual Service Fee.
“The mandatory 30 days expired on November 10, 2023. Only 580 title holders responded by settling their indebtedness. With this development, the MCO recommended
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