Fayemi to UK Parliamentarians: Nigeria Open for investment. Urges investors to shun exaggerated negative views about Nigeria

Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has urged Britain to take advantage of the abundant minerals deposits in Nigeria and the enabling environment being created by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to invest in the country’s mining sector.

Fayemi, who addressed British parliamentarians and investors at a session organised by the All-Party Parliamentarian Group (APPG) on Nigeria at the Parliament, Westminster, London on Thursday, urged them to shun negative views about the country, which according to him are usually unduly exaggerated.

He said perception about Nigeria are often skewed in favour of negative stereotypes that are contrary to the reality of the ground.

The Minister who also presented copies of the Mining Roadmap recently developed by the ministry to the parliamentarians, said President Buhari is at the forefront of the efforts to convince investors that Nigeria is open for investment. He added that the President’s strategic diplomatic engagement, has helped in giving the country a new image as a worthwhile investment destination.

Specifically, Fayemi urged the British investors to consider the country’s mining sector for investment, even as he categorised the country’s mineral deposits into five groups, vis: industrial minerals (such as barite, kaolin limestone); energy minerals (such as bitumen and uranium); metallic ore minerals (gold, iron ore , copper), Construction minerals (granite, gravel) and precious stones ( sapphire, emerald, topaz).

He reinstated the commitment of the administration to making solid minerals a major revenue earner and a vehicle for job creation in the country.

“In 2015, the sector contributed approximately 0.33% to the gross domestic product of the country. This contribution is a reversal from historically higher percentages (about 4-5% in the 1960s-70s). Our policy goal is to return to a contribution level of 5% – 7% over the next 10 – 15 years, and the recently approved Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) is very supportive of this aspiration”. Fayemi said.

The Minister, who noted Britain’s involvement in the development of mining in Jos and Enugu dating back to 1902, also urged the country to invest in Nigeria’s steel sector, which current market size is $3.3 billion per annum.

He assured them that the steel sector has the potential to grow to $15 billion per annum “with increased industrialisation driven by our domestic feedstock, which constitutes the second largest iron ore reserves in Africa”.

He said the ministry has put in place a strategy to jumpstart market growth, using a blend of domestic mining houses, mining companies and junior global miners.

“We project a steady increase in demand for steel in Nigeria in the coming decade, driven by increased industrialization that will ignite a surge in building construction, power, automotive construction, agriculture, road and bridge building, military technology and infrastructure development, refinery investments, and other heavy duty machinery.

“This ever-widening vortex of hunger for steel and iron ore is an opportunity for local and international investors to participate in the consolidation and expansion of Africa’s largest economy. Our optimism is also informed by the fact that current local producers are meeting less than 25 percent of demand”.

Fayemi said the right regulatory and legal framework that would secure investment in the sector are already in place, in addition to incentives to investors.

The Minister who spoke on “Nigeria’s Solid Minerals Sector: Alternative investment opportunities” , however emphasised that environmental justice and transparency are two of the critical factors that would not be compromised in the sector.

On poor perception about the country, Fayemi said what the present administration has chosen to do is to continue to showcase and emphasise the positive sides and striving to reposition the country.

He said: “What we have sought to do in recent months is to turn the tide of popular but exaggerated (and sometimes inaccurate) narratives and shine a light on the other positive facts that are seldom taken into account.

“For example, last year, Nigeria accomplished an epochal alternation of power with a ruling party acquiescing to an opposition party. This signaled the deepening of our democratic experience. Democracy is a journey, not a destination and Nigeria continues to make significant progress on her journey.

“As we continue to strengthen our democratic institutions, we are also enhancing accountability, transparency and the rule of law. We are now taking steps to create and strengthen the institutional frameworks that will, for example, improve the ease of doing business, address corruption and graft especially in the public sector, foster a culture of free enterprise, and boost the capacity of security institutions.

“ We recognize that a liberal socio-political environment is often a precursor to a world class business environment.

“Our president has particularly been at the forefront of vigorous strategic diplomatic engagements around the world to give Nigeria a new image and demonstrate that we are open for investments. Our administration is actively leveraging the treasure trove of goodwill and good reputation we enjoy, which borrows largely from the widely acknowledged personal integrity of Mr. President himself, to project Nigeria in a more positive light as a worthwhile investment destination.” He said.

Highlighting the policy direction for the sector, Fayemi said: “Ecological justice is one of the major planks of our approach to the repositioning of the solid minerals sector. We will ensure that investors comply with global best practices in resource extraction by integrating all relevant protocols on environmental conservation in the conduct of mining and all related business.

“Transparency is also a key consideration in how the mining industry will be run. We intend to foster a culture of openness which will, in turn, engender trust between all stakeholders. For me as the Chairperson of the Nigerian Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), this is an obligation and not a favour to stakeholders. As you may all be aware, only last week, President Muhammadu Buhari joined Prime Minister David Cameron, and other leaders to commit to Open Governance and Transparency principles – transparency in the extractives industry is particularly key to that commitment.

“Our ambition goes beyond just extraction and exportation. We aim to create a globally competitive sector capable of contributing to wealth creation, jobs creation and the advancement of our social and human security. It is also to create a new culture of sustainable natural resource management that results in a win-win situation for all of us – communities, partners and investors at home and abroad”, he added.