DEBATES are needless about the importance of Dr. Henry Oladele Alake, Honourable Minister of Solid Minerals Development in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration. To put it more pointedly, Alake is important to President Tinubu.
We have heard stories of Alake being Tinubu’s lone choice if Jagaban Borgu needed only one man for any battle.
More knowing ones claim that Tinubu would do nothing without an Alake input. How the relationship commenced is not known. The little we know is that Alake and Jagaban Borgu are important to each other, particularly after they returned from exile of the General Sani Abacha days.
Alake has complained to ordinary Nigerians that illegal miners are threatening his life. What do we make of this? Why would Alake involve the public if his life is threatened except to tell us that he has given up the fight, I imagine there was one, against illegal mining? Would the public be the ones to protect him? Did he expect that there would be no threats?
When the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development was farmed out to Alake, expectations were high that the billions of Dollars reportedly lost to illegal miners could be winged into national purses. Never mind those who said it was also an indication that Tinubu wanted to have more than a passing interest in the sector.
Alake made introductory noises on his appointment. He warned illegal miners that a new sheriff was in town.
“The government will come down firmly on these unscrupulous foreign operators sponsoring banditry to perpetrate illegal mining: let me use this medium to appeal through you to tell those sponsors to desist or face the full wrath of the law,” he told a delegation of the Nigerian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce that visited him. It was a heavy message that lacked clarity.
Was the message for the Chinese and other foreigners? Was the message a clearance for Nigerians to delve into illegal mining? We do not know.
Unending photo opportunities have stood him out as a performing Minister in an administration in which most of his colleagues are notoriously anonymous.
By December, the message changed slightly. “Nigerians are those powerful people behind them (illegal miners); we are identifying them with both kinetic and non-kinetic means. We have encouraged those petty illegal miners to form cooperatives,” said the Minister.
Alake said the conservative amount of minerals deposited in the country was over $700 billion.
“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,” he said of the Ministry’s 2024 budget proposal.
The Committee Chairman, Gaza Gbefwi (SDP -Nasarawa), said the funds appropriated to the sector in the 2024 budget were grossly inadequate.
At least, the Minister should be grinning over the support. But would he? Will we still get the billions of Dollars that are under the soil?
For the partially enlightened, solid minerals include gold, which is said to be found in such abundances in Zamfara (more than 40 percent of the deposits in Nigeria). The mines are in the hands of private, mostly illegal miners. The resources are not reflected in the federation account. Eyes are mainly on the gold.
By 2021, there was a lot of buzz about a gold-processing factory in Osun State. Nothing much has been heard about it ever since. Osun also have a lot of gold deposits.
Just days ago Alake dashed the renewed hope in gold being better than crude. Is he quitting? Has he served notice?
Where did Alake report the threat to his life? Who are the powerful Nigerians that he cannot name? Are they more powerful than the President?
Did he make a formal report to the Inspector-General Dr. Kayode Egbetokun, who was the President’s Chief Security Officer for six years, 1999-2005, while Tinubu was Governor of Lagos State? Alake was Tinubu’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy for eight years. He knows who to complain to about threats to his life. Did he?
If Alake is too afraid to do the job, he should quit and spare us the drivel about threats. If he decides not to do the work, he can also stay, after all neither his boss, nor the public would notice. The lethargy of the Tinubu administration serves it well.
We are threatened from all sides, by criminals, by insensitive government policies that squeeze life out of us, and government officials like Alake, who do not know what is happening to us, yet insist that we manage their fears while they attend to their enhanced comforts.
We no go gree for them.
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Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues