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Nigerian minister wants death penalty for gold smuggling

Gold smugglers in Africa’s largest economy deserve the death penalty, Nigeria’s deputy minister in charge of mining development said.

Uche Ogah, minister of state for mines and steel development, told lawmakers investigating the alleged loss of $9 billion a year to illegal mining of the precious metal, according to media reports Wednesday.

It’s a sector with huge opportunities that could create jobs but it’s “bleeding” because of smugglers, Kelechi Ekugo, Ogah’s aide said, while confirming the minister’s statement on the need for harsher punishments. “It’s important that government put stringent measure against those that are caught to be causing huge economic sabotage to the sector and to the economy,” Ekugo said.

Africa’s largest oil producer has sizeable untapped deposits of metals including gold, gemstones, zinc, iron ore and lead, but nearly all extraction is done informally on a small-scale basis, according the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

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