Since the last and present administration in the Solid Minerals Ministry, the emphasis has been to ensure value addition to Nigeria’s solid minerals before exporting them rather than sell them as raw products at cheaper prices. Value addition not only attracts significantly higher prices for the products, there is the added advantage of skill/capacity development and job creation.
This was underscored by the new minister of Solid Mineral Development, Mr Dele Alake, who stated that in the new Tinubu administration, Nigeria will not just be a country involved in excavating and exporting of raw solid minerals; rather there will value addition to them so that Nigeria can reap maximally from its mineral wealth.
The minister made this comment recently in Abuja during the graduation ceremony and presentation of starter packs to Batch 3 graduates of the Gemstone and Jewellery Master Training and Empowerment programme of the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, in conjunction with the World Bank-assisted Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project (MInDiver Project).
Now in its third batch, the programme has seen 71 young Nigerians chosen from across all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, trained in the art and business of gemstone and jewellery design and production.
LEADERSHIP reports that 20 beneficiaries were trained in the first batch, 21 in the second batch and 30 in the third batch. The organisers not only empower the selected young men and women with the knowledge and practical skills, they also empower them on graduation with starter packs to launch them in the business
As the third batch of 30 beneficiaries graduated from their five-month intensive master training programme at the Jewellery Training Centre, Abuja, on August 31, 2023, the group was presented with their starter packs during their graduation ceremony, in an event attended by the new minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr Dele Alake, ministry officials, technical partners, and other stakeholders.
In his speech at the event, Alake lauded the “historic significance of developing skills to support the solid minerals value chain,” adding that “the value of gemstone increases when it is cut and polished, however, majority of gemstones mined in Nigeria are being exported without any value addition since the technical know-how and machinery required in cutting, polishing and finishing jewelry are generally lacking in the country. To bridge these gaps, it became necessary to build capacity in jewellery making and design.”
Accordingly, he said, the Ministry drew up a roadmap for the development of Nigeria’s mineral resources, with the MinDiver Project supporting its implementation as part of its effort at facilitating downstream sector development aimed at enhancing value-addition to mineral products.
“We must recall that, in the course of his campaign, Mr. President Asiwaju Bola Tinubu pledged to explore all possible opportunities to create jobs particularly for the youths through vocational skills training.
“It is a known fact that Nigeria with its large population has a huge appetite for jewellery and it is imperative to create a local jewellery industry that would substantially meet local demand for quality jewellery products, increase import substitution, create jobs and boost the export value of Nigeria’s gemstones and jewellery.”
This capacity training, the minister said, will be extended to the other precious stones – like gold, lithium, sapphire, aquamarine, beryl, emerald, tourmaline, ruby, and garnet, etc.
Congratulating the beneficiaries, Alake urged them to make the best use of the opportunity to make themselves and their country proud, saying the quality of the sample products created by the graduates will compare favourably with the best in the world.
On his part, MinDiver Project Coordinator, Engr Sallim Salaam, corroborated the minister’s position, saying the training programme was in line with the federal government’s campaign for value addition to mineral products before their sale.
He said 41 beneficiaries had been trained in batch one and two of the exercise and that the present batch had 30 young Nigerians selected from various states in Nigeria, bringing the total number to 71.
According to him, the idea is for the beneficiaries to return to their states to train other youths with the skills they had acquired as well as practise the business for their own economic empowerment.
He paid tribute to the World Bank for its assistance in driving and sustaining the programme as well as Mr Linus Adie, a former permanent secretary in the ministry who initiated the idea.
“It is not perfect yet, but we continue to improve on the process. The target is to stop spending scarce forex on importation of jewellery by boosting local production,” Sallim said, adding that the trainees need passion to succeed.
Mr Adie, in his short speech, advised the beneficiaries to use their own creativity to their advantage and to launch themselves in the lucrative business. He also charged them to return to their states to train other youths.
The permanent secretary, Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Maria Ogbe, who was represented at the event, thanked the minister, the consultants/trainers, MinDiver, and the graduating trainees for a job well done.
She told the beneficiaries they have a lot to be thankful for.
“Your state governments have already been sensitized to help you. The ministry will stand by you – if you don’t deviate. If you have any issues, revert to the ministry. But please do not disappoint,” she advised.
The Class representative of the beneficiaries, Emeka Ezenwoye, thanked the minister and the organisers for the opportunity presented to them, pledging that he and his mates will not disappoint the nation.
One of the graduating trainees, Favour Ojoachenyo David, from Kogi State, said the training programme was the best experience of his life so far.
“I had no prior experience in gemstone and jewellery making, but on getting there I put all my mind in it. At first I didn’t know I could do it – everything was new to me. But now I feel I can impact people – I feel I have something I can give back to society – to help people create wealth by themselves.
“It felt strange at the beginning, but along the line I tried my hands on a few designs and I found that I had some hidden talent in me.”
David’s mate from Benue State, Atungwu Adam Atungwu, told LEADERSHIP the class comprised 21 males and nine women. According to him, jewellery used to be seen as a women’s business, but men are increasingly getting involved.
Atungwu noted that their training ran from 3rd April till August 31, 2023.
“I have no previous gemstone experience – I am a geologist. I thank MinDiver for their effort – they really went to great lengths to prepare us well. It is a lifetime opportunity. You can make money by training others and you can engage in various aspects of jewellery making. It is indeed an economic empowerment project and I am fortunate to be involved.”
The technical consultant to the project, Tope Adebanjo, said the underpinning principle is that one cannot achieve much without adding value to oneself.
He advised the graduates to continue their self-development, adding that they can start small with the packs and gradually grow the business.
“These 30 graduates will change the face of the gemstones and jewellery industry in Nigeria”, he said, adding that MinDiver has one of the richest libraries he had seen in the industry.
Former president of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS), Akin George, said the programme will take Nigeria to the top in the jewellery sector in the world, even as he advocated the establishment of a gemstones prospecting unit.
On her part, the president of Women in Mining (WIMIN), Janet Adeyemi, expressed joy that the advocacy for women inclusion in mining had borne fruit with the number of females in the graduating class tripling the males.
During the technical session, the graduates were taught the different areas of the business they could engage in and how to package themselves to make a success of the trade.
The highlights of the event were the minister inspecting the gemstones and jewellery items produced by the Batch 3 graduates, and the handing out of certificates and starter packs to each of them.