Uche Ogah, minister of state for mines and steel development, has advocated the death penalty for persons convicted of gold smuggling in Nigeria.

Ogah spoke on Tuesday at an investigative hearing on Nigeria’s “$9 billion annual loss” to illegal mining and smuggling of gold, organised by the senate committee on solid minerals, mines, steel development and metallurgy.

The minister also said private jets are being used for gold smuggling in the country.

“Gold smuggling in Nigeria is often done using private jets, the very reason private jet ownership and operations need to be streamlined in the country,” Ogah said.

“For these crimes to be fought decisively, potent punitive measures like capital punishment need to be legally provided for.”

He added that smuggling of gold and mining is tantamount to robbing the country of billions of dollars yearly.

The minister alleged that security agencies connive with offenders, adding that host communities’ collaboration, low level of application of technology, and the negative mindset of Nigerians to Nigeria are other factors encouraging gold smuggling.

He said the menace can be tackled proactively through the establishment of mines police, special court or tribunals to try offenders, and adequate funding for the ministry.

“The main crux of the matter is for us to be Nigerian by seeing ourselves as Nigerians in all circumstances,” he said.

“Doing this will make us see mineral resources in our communities as collective wealth of all Nigerians that must not be illegally explored by anybody within or from outside the country.”

On his part, Tanko Al-Makura, chairman of the committee, said for thorough investigation, heads of relevant government agencies will be invited for discussion.

According to him, the agencies to be invited include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

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