While much has been said about the challenges investors in Nigeria’s solid minerals sector face, Ruth Tene, appraises the minister’s presentation at the Mining Indaba Conference in South Africa and the readinesss of the federal government to welcome investors?
The Federal Government in its effort to attract investors into the solid minerals sector has failed to take into cognizance the challenges that have deterred the growth of the sector.
One of such challenges has been the near lack of funding as exemplified in the very low budgetary allocation to the sector. With N3.2 billion approved in the budget for all its capital and recurrent expenditures, one is not left in doubt that it is one of the lowest allocations made to any ministry.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development,Mohammed Musa Sada’s message since his assumption of office has been that the present government’s transformation agenda would among other things seek to diversify and transform the solid minerals sector to enable it create an alternative to Nigeria’s dependence on oil.
Leading a delegation of the ministry’s officials to South Africa Mining Indaba 2012 Conference recently,Sada in a presentation titled:“Investing in Nigeria’s Mining Sector,” stated that “Nigeria is endowed with a wide range of mineral resources and this is true as most states of the federation can boast of one or multiple minerals.”
He told the august meeting that government has created an enabling environment to stimulate sustained growth through the full exploration and exploitation of available resources,just as it has carried out fundamental reforms , put in place a comprehensive Mineral and Mining Act, in addition to a set of mining regulations to govern mining operations in the country.
The minister told a rapt audience that a transparent cadastre system had become fully operational, while the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency(NGSA) has generated large scientific data on the mineral deposits in the country.
The mining cadastre office he said, operates on a first- come- first served basis, and ensures that mineral rights were given to all eligible license owners irrespective of tribe, religion or connections, stressing that attractive incentives and guaranteed security of tenure were part of efforts on the part of government at ensuring that investors had good returns on investment from their dealings with the sector.
The minister however failed to mention that lack of infrastructure, including poor road networks, power, transportation and the destruction of the topography as a result of illegal mining activities were strong impediments.
The privatisation and liberalisation of the minerals industry which saw the government taking up only regulatory roles also got a mention at the conference.This is because it ensured that investors were in full control of their licenses without unnecessary interferences.
Although he pleged that a geoscientific data would be made readily available for prospective investors, the question remains, how accurate are the data?
Mention was also made of a stable political and social climate to safe-guard investments in the sector, but is Nigeria secured? With the intermittent bombings by Boko Haram in the north and the uprising of MEND in the south, what measures are government taking to ensure that investors are protected from terror attacks?
The need for investors in the sector cannot be overemphasised, but the truth remains that except the endemic challenges are confronted with a view to finding lasting solutions to them,the problems will remain and the investors would keep avoiding the sector like a plaque.