GOVERNOR Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has lashed out at his colleagues from the south-south geo-political zone over their attacks on how his state is allowed to keep the proceeds of its gold reserves while they have to hand over oil proceeds to the federal government.
This year, Zamfara State has enjoyed a boost in gold discoveries, leading the federal government to say it would buy the reserves from the state government. This immediately sparked off a massive row with governors from the south-south asking why the federal government owns their oil, while Zamfara State is allowed to keep its gold.
Last month, the six south-south governors met and issued a string-worded statement condemning the arrangement, while Niger Delta youths have promise to put up a fight against what they see as a terrible injustice. Yesterday, Governor Matawalle responded to all this criticism, saying it was unfounded as the gold in Zamfara State belongs to the federal government.
Governor Matawalle said: “I am having a very bad experience from some of my Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor colleagues which I still find very puzzling. For instance, the south-south governors accusing me in the media are PDP governors and they are the same people who brewed controversy over the so-called Zamfara gold, premised on deliberate misinformation and outright lies.
“Surprisingly, it is the All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government which has all the correct records on the gold mining issue that came out to defend me in this saga. As PDP colleagues, I expected the governors to contact me first and find out my own side of the story before unleashing their venom in the media.
“As the brouhaha lasted, I commend the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari for being supportive of our efforts to organise the economic sector in the state to avoid using the mineral deposits to promote insecurity in our dear state. Today, the federal government is issuing licences to deserving companies to operate in the mining sector in the state and the biggest company with an investment of billions of naira is owned by a Nigerian from Anambra state.
“I wonder where the idea of Zamfara State owning the gold mines emanated from. As at now, the state government does not have a hand in any of the mining activity in the state because the constitution does not empower us to do so.
“I call on the south-south governors to eschew intellectual idleness and support its people to operate modular refineries as provided by the law and lift their people out of fear rather than sit behind and start chasing shadows rather than substance.”