The Federal Government has said Nigeria lost $5bn to gold smuggling activities in six years.
The amount when converted based on the official exchange rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria translates to about N2.05trn.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogah, who made the disclosure, said the government had taken steps towards addressing the problem.
This came as President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative to submit a six-month progress report on the Solid Minerals Development Fund, designed to capture accruals from investments in the sector.
He also charged PAGMI to intensify operations in the mining sector by ensuring that investments go beyond artisanal and small-scale levels.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed these in a statement.
According to the President, all stakeholders should conclude the ongoing assignment of recommending a portion of accruals to be dedicated to the Solid Minerals Development Fund.
The dedication of a portion of accruals to create a sustainable income stream for the Solid Minerals Development Fund is essential to delivering the mandates assigned to the Fund.
The development of a sustainable stream for the Fund will conclude the implementation of the Fund’s Establishment Act, which is a key focus area for this administration.
“This initiative is of great pride to me because through our intervention we can reach hardworking Nigerians in the field, toiling and the quarries under the sun trying to earn an honest living.
“We have been able to protect them from clutches of those who exploit their hard labour, while simultaneously bringing them into the value chain to earn improved income from their hard work. I expect a six-month progress report that will clearly show significant progress by scaling up the programme from its current pilot stage,” he said.
Earlier, the President had charged the PAGMI management team to develop innovative ways to move PAGMI to the next level to ensure the Nigerian mining story goes beyond artisanal and small-scale mining.
While urging the initiative to ensure that the Solid Minerals Development Fund fast-tracks delivery of other directives to support the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, Buhari commended the steering committee and management team under the leadership of the Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, as chairman, Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, as vice-chairman of the steering committee, as well as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, for their efforts.
In his remarks, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uche Ogar, who led the delegation, said since the validation of the initiative by the President, PAGMI had created the opportunity for formalisation and mainstreaming of artisanal miners, giving them the economic opportunity to live.