Two persons have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted for illegal possession of gemstones.
The duo – Emeka Ezema and Ye Kachi – who was arrested on July 5, 2022, in Cross River State, were found in possession of 300g of tourmaline, without any form of authorisation or license from the ministry as stipulated in sections 2, 93, 94 of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (NMMA) 2007 and Regulation 133 of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulation (NMMR) 2011.
The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in collaboration with the legal unit of the Department of State Services, Cross River State arraigned the two suspects in court on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, charged with conspiracy to commit felony to wit, possession of tourmaline without a license under section 516 of the Criminal Code and unlawful possession of tourmaline contrary to section 93 and punishable under section 146(2) of the NMMA 2007.
The two had pleaded guilty to the offences charged against them and were convicted accordingly. Subsequently, The court on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, also granted Engr. Mayowa Omosebi, Federal Mines Officer (FMO), Cross River State, to take possession of the forfeited 300g of tourmaline according to section 146(2) of the NMMA 2007.
Mr. Mayowa Omosebi confirmed that he is in possessions of the forfeited 300g of tourmaline and also suggested that the stones be disposed of at the current market value as stipulated in the ministry’s reviewed rates for minerals which came into effect on May 1, 2022 and that the minerals be auctioned only to the person who has valid license to purchase and possess minerals.
A statement by the ministry’s director of press signed by Tony Ekpo, said the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development while commending the Federal Mines Officer (FMO), Engr. Mayowa Omosebi and the Department of State Services for acting swiftly in the arrest and the conviction of the suspects said the action will serve as a deterrent to others who may wish to go that route in the future, “this is also a good one for the ministry and would serve to show that the ministry has the power to convict criminals in the solid minerals’ sector’’.