Ruth Tene Natsa writes on the opinions of key sector players on the commitment of the current government’s efforts at developing the mineral and mining sector to become one of the key sectors for economic diversification.
The president of the Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN), Alhaji Sani Shehu, has said that he believed that the government is committed to developing the mineral sector.
In an exclusive telephone interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday, he said, “If the style of the leadership of the current administration of the mining sector is to be guided by the roadmap, then no doubt there is still hope that the government is committed to the development of the mineral sector.”
Reacting to an earlier interview he gave over the current government’s efforts at addressing the many challenges in the development of the sector, he said, “at that time I was not optimistic but excited.
But the ministry came up with a format that indicated that they cannot do anything until they organise themselves. This they did by creating a roadmap which was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council. I am that sure if they work according to the dictates of the roadmap it will greatly benefit the sector and the Nigerian nation at large. If their style of leadership is to be guided by the roadmap, then there is still hope even though this year is already ending and we might not expect much, but by next year with renewed interest from private investors, including the Dangote group, we should be expecting very much in 2017.”
Meanwhile speaking on the recent discovery of nickel in Kaduna State by an Australian mining company, the miners’ president said, “If the discovery is proven to be true, it will provide huge economic benefits to the nation’s economy and expose Nigeria as a mining destination, provide massive employment generation for both professionals and locals, enhance the earnings of the federal government and boost investors’ confidence in the country. So for me it’s a very good development,” he affirmed.
Shehu, however, advised the government to “tread with caution and advise the company to source for external investment in carrying out the necessary exploration so as to ensure that government continues to play its regulatory roles in the development of the minerals and mining sector.”
Meanwhile contradicting the MAN president, a senior geologist with a private mining company, KCM Mining Limited, Samuel Alabi, opined that the present government is not as serious in developing the mining sector as they claim to be.
“Mining is not a city affair, but carried out in local areas, villages and communities. The government must be committed to developing the sector because as it is now, we are just moving round and round in a cycle as the Minerals and Mining Act 2011 has not changed.
“Where we are missing it is in the fact that the agencies are not yet serious. Most policy makers have not been to the field and, unfortunately, the government does not listen to us who are in the field; the minister prefers to listen to the directors who sit in their offices and give information that sometimes they do not understand,” he said.
The geologist remained cynical about the present administration’s commitment to developing the mineral sector.
He said, “Can you imagine that we have only five inspectorate officers in Kogi State? So tell me how they can manage 21 local government areas,” noting that the insufficient manpower involved in the monitoring and evaluation of mining activities across the states is the core reason illegal mining is thriving.
“As far as I am concerned we keep going around in a cycle, making it impossible for us to develop as a nation. As long as we keep going round and round, it will never work. Go to Kenya, Ghana, and other countries, the way they practice mining is different because they work with friendly policies unlike Nigerian policies which encourage illegal mining,” Alabi said.
To address these challenges, he urged that “in all the 774 local governments of the federation there must be a mines inspectorate staff to monitor mining activities adequately. We need to have a price centre and price control unit and with that nobody can smuggle or take out minerals without taxes generating revenue for the government.”
Meanwhile, the minister of state, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bwari, has expressed great optimism that the recent location of a unique nickel in Kaduna State will not only boost economic activities but is set to place Nigeria in the world mining map. He said that the quality of nickel discovered is unique in the sense that most nickels found are usually 53 per cent-58 per cent pure, but the one discovered around Kafanchan is of world class value with 98 per cent purity and also in high commercial value.
According to Bwari, “The discovery if properly managed could become the game changer that would place Nigeria in the league of global mining nations and help the present government to reposition the mining sector. It would attract investors and also generate revenue through royalties for the government.”
He was optimistic that “indeed the discovery, coupled with the present government’s political will, is the catalyst that would ensure that communities benefit from infrastructural development, job creation (for both geologists, engineers and the local community) and also justify the fact that Nigeria is a mineral rich nation.”
He assured that “the discovery would further give us the confidence to go into further exploration and develop revenue for our economy.”