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$700bn mineral industry bleeding

$700bn mineral industry bleeding %Post Title

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is alarming to discover that the untapped mineral resources worth $700bn have been taken over by illegal miners, while the Nigerian economy continues to wallow in quandary gasping for survival.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Mary Ogbe, recently raised an alarm that illegal mining activities are disrupting the country’s $700bn industry.

Nigeria, some reports said, can boast of several minerals in commercial quantities, but has not earned up to N1trn in total revenue from the solid minerals sector in 15 years.

Unfortunately, the sector has had erratic growth and a badly devastating abuse by illegal miners not only from within, but from outside the country, particularly from neighbouring countries of West Africa such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and the like.

Concerned Nigerians have expressed their opinions on the wanton pillage of abundant mineral resources by illegal miners in different states of the federation and they are saying “When will this bleeding stop?”

*Nigerians ask govt to sanitise sector, dislodge illegal miners

A former member of the House of Representatives, Dr Tunde Lakoju, has doubted the sincerity of the purpose of the Federal Government to diversify by investing in the mining industry.

Lakoju expressed dismay that the Federal Government has paid lip service to this multi-billion industry overtime saying this is the time for the government to take the bull by the horns and dislodge the enemies of the nation engaging in illegal activities across the state of the federation these mineral resources are deposited.

He queried, “Who are the miners? Where did they get their licences from? What are the involvement of the states and the local government in the mining of these resources?”

“For instance, Akoko-Edo, Ikpeshi, and Sassaro alone have over 200 mining sites. All the miners are strangers. Akoko Edo women and youths are inside the unsafe pits as very poorly paid daily labourers, for very long hours every day.

“No Akoko Edo indigene is operating at the management levels of the mining companies. Both the state government and the local government are not beneficiaries of whatever is coming from miners.

“All the miners are mining illegally. The licenses they are holding are licenses for exploration not for full-scale mining.”

According to Lakoju, if the current regime is sincere in handling the industry, Nigeria will be in a position to loan money to America and other rich countries of the world.

Also, the former Chairman of the defunct Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), Mr Niyi Akinsiju, has noted that the environment for the exploitation of mineral resources is enmeshed in confusion between the Federal Government that owns all resources in the belly of the earth and the State Government that owns the land.

He stated that there is also the challenge of situating the place of mineral-bearing communities which is crucial in the effective management of these resources.

“I am aware of efforts to manage these conflicts of relational confusion but not much can be done without recourse to appropriate amendment of the constitution to streamline their relationships on matters relating to mineral resources exploitation.

He continued, “Mining is a capital-intensive industry. Unfortunately, Nigerian banks don’t even understand the essentials of the mining industry.

“This is reflected in the lack of dedicated desks for mining in Nigerian banks. I know of an associate who had secured two gold mining licenses over more than five years but could not do anything with it because of the unavailability of credit support from banks. So, there is a need to motivate banks to commercially support entrepreneurs in this regard.”

 

*’Encourage banks to give loans to investors’ 

According to the Assistant Secretary of the Miners Association of Nigeria, Shehu Adamu Dinawa, “The Nigerian government has to encourage the youth in the mining sector through training, empowerment, engagement, and also there is no bank to finance mining activity in Nigeria.

“We need the Federal government to look into this and establish a bank to finance the mining of mineral resources in Nigeria. So that this will boost small-scale mining in Nigeria managed by the indigenes.

“This will not only boost the economy but also increase employment, and more revenue generation at both state and federal government levels in Nigeria. It will also encourage foreign investors to come into the sector to invest in Nigeria.

“Also, the government needs to encourage many private Nigerian investors to invest in the mining sector, especially the banks.”

Over time Nigeria has been operating a mono economy solely relying on crude oil while other resources are left fallow, untapped, and wasting away, he lamented.

“But the reality is done on us now as a country that we cannot survive on only crude oil while other resources abound and wasting away,” he added.

It is on record that Nigeria has various mineral deposits such as gold, manganese, bitumen, lithium, iron ore, lead, zinc, limestone, uranium, gemstones, coal, topaz, and copper in commercial quantity in over 500 locations in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

But the country, regrettably, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), has only earned a pittance of N60.11bn in the first half of this year, accounting for 0.56 per cent of total trade.

Untapped nation’s ‘money spinner

The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake, recently revoked 1,633 mining licences of some miners.

His action, to many pundits, did not come as a surprise. This is because, before the eventual revocation of these licenses, the Minister had given the miners an ultimatum of 30 days to join notable mining cooperatives or face the wrath of the law.

Joining a reputable cooperative society or forming one, in Alake’s wisdom, would enable the government to closely monitor the sector’s activities, regulate, and maximally harness the revenue accruable from there.

Alake, on resumption as Solid Minerals Minister, vowed to make the sector the nation’s revenue generator, second to crude oil, which has been the country’s only money spinner.

According to him, the sector had been left unmanaged, making every Tom, Dick, and Harry access and plunder all Nigerians’ commonwealth.

However, the recalcitrant miners did not bulge and allowed the 30-day grace to elapse. Hence the Minister is wielding a big hammer.

The Minister, while revoking the licences, said security agencies, in collaboration with the Mines Inspectorate of the Ministry, have been authorized to arrest any defaulters found on those sites where whose titles have been revoked.

He explained that the mineral titles were revoked due to the holders’ failure to pay the prescribed annual service fees on time.

For instance, on August 3, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Mary Ogbe, raised an alarm that illegal mining activities are disrupting the country’s $700bn industry.

According to her, some of the minerals are often exported raw to Asian and European countries at ridiculous prices without value.

Data from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) also showed that the sector between 2007 and 2021 has only contributed N818.04bn ($3.2bn) to the Federal Government’s purse.

Also, according to NEIT, the sector made N121bn in 2021, accounting for a 51.89 per cent increase from the previous year, with only limestone and granite being the most produced minerals in 2021, accounting for about 74.4 percent of total production. Thus, making the sector contribute a meagre 0.63 per cent to the country’s economy.

One of Alake’s predecessors in office, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who served in the immediate past dispensation of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari said the mining sector was contributing about N400bn to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He said about 44 mining sites that the country has could make the sector a key source of economic growth and diversified revenue base.(This Nigeria)

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