In its efforts to diversify the economy away from mono product economy, the federal government has looked to the solid minerals sector for increased revenue and job creation.
In this wise, last year the federal government, through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and facilitated by the Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project (MinDiver), embarked on a strategy for sustainable development of the gemstone and jewellery industry in Nigeria.
This effort has yielded fruit with the graduation of the First Batch of trainees under the national training programme, which commenced in October 2021. The training programme was inaugurated to strengthen the skilled workforce in the industry and boost jewellery production across states in the country with the abundant raw materials available.
The programme was initiated to promote the local processing of gemstone and jewellery raw materials in the country, create jobs, and facilitate the growth of small and medium-scale enterprises.
The move became necessary since Nigeria was blessed with several varieties of gemstone, mostly illegally exported out of the country in raw forms with low revenue returns.
The minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite said the graduates had been fully armed to face the future, having learnt what it takes to compete among the world’s best gemstone and jewellery makers.
He said the knowledge acquired by the graduates on gemstone and jewellery making in seven months are skills that cannot be taken away from them, noting that knowledge is the best gift to anyone.
According to him, the knowledge has now become personal, an acquisition they would be endowed with for a lifetime.
The minister, who presented certificates to the graduates, urged them to keep improving themselves as knowledge was not an end, but a means to an end. He charged them to realise that what they had acquired in the seven months was to enable them to help themselves, others, and the country.
He said when they use the skills and knowledge they had acquired, the country would have achieved the objective of skill development envisaged when the programme was designed.
Arc. Adegbite said the federal government was working on a sustainability plan to empower all the graduates to practise and, in turn, assist in passing on the knowledge to others.
He said, “There is a plan by the federal government to empower all of you, which is essentially not just for you to practise what you have learnt but to ensure that you impart the knowledge you have learnt to others.
“In addition, the Ministry is working with your state governments to provide spaces for you to operate and empower you with the equipment you can use to practice your trade and train others. All these efforts are geared towards motivating you to be the best ambassadors that you are meant to be based on what you have learnt.
According to the minister, the World Bank, impressed with the programme, had promised to support the Ministry in developing the gemstone and jewellery industry.
He said the support was further reiterated by the MinDiver Task Team leader, Dr Martin Locanc, who proposed an advanced training programme for the graduates. He said the composition of the advanced training programme would be drawn from graduates who performed well.
He said, “I must say that it is good to note that the World Bank is impressed with the training and has proposed through the TTL, an advanced training where people like you would proceed from this training and qualify based on performance. It is instructive to note that those who would be called upon to move from this level upwards will be those who show determination because how you advance from here will be determined by what you do with this initial training.
“You must have it at the back of your mind that we want you to make a difference in your various communities. Make sure your communities see improvement in you based on the training and skills acquired.”
Project coordinator, MinDiver, Engr. Sallim Salaam said the activity, which started on October 26, 2021, was one of the major programmes of the MinDiver project aimed at supporting value addition.
He said the MinDiver undertook the programme because value addition was very critical to the diversification agenda of the federal government aimed at moving the country away from a mono economy dependent on oil to other critical sectors like agriculture and mining.
He said with this in mind, the federal government set up the Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project (MinDiver) to make critical contributions to the implementation of the roadmap for the development of the sector.
He said: “We have a lot of activities ongoing in the MinDiver Project, and this is one of the many. This activity is about five per cent of the activities we are working on. As a project, we are happy that 21 trainees were admitted, and all have graduated. The interesting aspect is that they are all from different states meaning they are trained to return to their various states and train others.
“This could not have been possible without President Muhammadu Buhari granting the approval for the setting up of the MinDiver Project and the commitment and support of the minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite.
Engr. Sallim said the objective of the programme is to train people who will go into the Nigerian gemstone and jewellery ecosystem to train and multiply more trainees so that Nigeria can be self-sufficient in the industry.
He said because of the huge success being recorded in the programme and the support of the World Bank, the federal government would sustain the training to enable
Nigeria build the skilled manpower needed to make Nigerian jewelleries attractive for export and discourage the importation of the products.
The project coordinator said having been exposed to the best training by some of the best trainers in the world, the graduates can favourably compete with their peers anywhere in the world.
“It is instructive to put it on record that our graduate trainees can compete favourably with their contemporaries around the world because they were exposed to the best training by some of the best trainers in the world who came in from Germany, Australia, Sri Lanka, Spain, and Belgium. They are some the best experts in the world, and they facilitated the programme in line with international best practices and at the end certified the trainees,” he said.
Mr Linus Adie, senior special adviser to the MinDiver Project, said the graduation of the trainees is a significant statement in the development of the
gemstone and jewellery industry.
He said from the kind of training the graduates have been exposed to, the country will benefit from their expertise a few years from now.
“The success story of Sri Lanka in gemstone and jewellery development started like this, and today 22 per cent of their earnings is from the industry. So, I urge
you to aim high because you have a lot to benefit from this training. So, work
very hard to attain the aim and objectives of this programme by propagating the
gemstone and jewellery industry all over the country. We expect that within the
next few years, we will have jewellery makers that can turn out ten or more
trainees per state,” he explained.
Peter Vermandere, one of the experts from Belgium who trained the graduates,
said the programme’s progress was overwhelming.
He said: “I have not experienced the zeal I noticed with the trainees anywhere
since I have been teaching students around the world. They did wonderfully well, and I am overwhelmed with their progress and the programme. Nigeria did a good thing to embark on this wonderful project.”
The class representative of the graduates, Jessica Ogieva, said the training was an eye-opener and a great experience for all of them.
She said they gained a lot of knowledge and skills during the training, and as the first products of the programme, they are mindful that a lot of eyes are on them to display their expertise, skills, and knowledge learnt.
She said the encouragement they need now is empowerment to strengthen the local jewellery sector.
After graduation, the graduates were taken on a tour of notable gemstone and jewellery-making centres in Lagos to expose them to the current trends in the industry and further broaden their knowledge and skills in the jewellery and gemstone business. The excursion also gave them first-hand contact with those already in the industry.
The graduates visited the Elesho Fine Jewellery, Cornucopia Jewellery Store,
Gold Treasure Exchange, and Crafties Hobby-Craft Limited. They also visited
the National Museum in Lagos.
Tekena Koko, managing director of Gold Treasure Exchange, who took the
graduates around her workshop during their excursion, advised them to focus on the business as it has a lot of potential.
She said she was in her 11th year in the trade, having started with repairs and
cleaning of gemstones and jewellery but developed a more profound interest with the inspiration of her mother, who was in the business.
The former banker said the drive to do something more unique brought her into the gemstone and jewellery industry. She said she had always wanted to do something more professional away from the local and traditional way of doing
According to her, even though the business is capital intensive, her vision was to see a situation where Nigerians would not be going abroad to Dubai or Italy to refine gemstones and jewellery.
Abimbola Oshunkunle, managing director, Cornucopia, in Ikeja Lagos,
expressed satisfaction with the show of interest by the graduates. She said the gemstone and jewellery industry was versatile and had a great future in Nigeria.
She said her dream was to source all her stones from Nigeria. However, she
explained that now she imports some stones from China to supplement what she gets in Nigeria. She said focusing on sourcing good stones in Nigeria is one main avenue to grow the business locally.
Mrs Ronke Oduniyi, managing Director, Lagos Jewellery School, said she is
happy more enthusiasts are coming into the industry. The London Jewellery
School-trained gemstone and jewellery maker had trained about 100
students and advised the graduates to put their training into use.
She said the industry was picking up, and patronage is very encouraging.
She called on the federal government to make subsidies available to those in
the business as it is the best option to help grow the market and industry and
encourage local jewellers in Nigeria.