Solid minerals: Cash-cow in dejection

The vast deposit of various solid minerals across the country is a goldmine capable of giving Nigeria the desired economic breakthrough if given all necessary attention.

Within the first three months of 2017, over N1 trillion had been shared among beneficiaries of Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). Interestingly, the large chunk of the funds was realised from crude oil sales, proceeds from Petroleum Profit TAX (PPT), Value Added Tax (VAT) and Company Income Tax (CIT).
Regrettably, however, one sector that ought to be contributing maximally to the basket of FAAC proceeds is the solid minerals sector. Analysis and projections by experts indicate that Nigeria has the capacity to generate at least N5 trillion yearly from mining and export of its vast solid minerals deposits.
Key growth sector
To consolidate its avowed commitment to the sector, the Federal Government recently unveiled its economic recovery blue print document, Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (2017-2020) where it recognised solid minerals as the big project required to leapfrog the economy to enviable height.
In the document, it set out deliberate policies aimed at removing and dismantling identified bottlenecks adversely affecting the growth of the sector.

Some policy objectives espoused in the plan targeted at developing the sector include growing solid minerals GDP from N103 billion (2015) to N141 billion in 2020 at an average annual growth rate of 8.54 per cent, facilitating the production of coal to fire power plant, producing geological maps of the entire country by 2020 on a scale of 1:100,000; integrating artisanal miners into the formal sector and encouraging and promoting mineral processing and value addition industries that strengthen backward and forward linkages. Currently, the nation earns over 80 per cent of her revenue from the petroleum industry, going by several reports.
Ironically, the sector accounts for less than 14 per cent of the GDP, whereas agriculture commands about 22 per cent of GDP and generates two-thirds of employment nationwide.
Untapped potential
Some experts have argued that the rich potential inherent in varied solid minerals deposit in Nigeria soils can be more profitable compared to crude oil if concerted attention is given to its guided extraction and development.
In the past, the sector was left in the hands of illiterates and locals, who often connived with straying expatriates to indulge in illegal mining and extraction of minerals and bolt th away with proceeds without a dime paid to government’s coffers.
At the peak of slide in crude oil prices, emerging economies, which are also members of crude oil producing nations such as Nigeria, made use of the opportunity to harness solid minerals in their domains since mineral resources remain the bedrock for industrialisation.
Time for a shift
However, after years of nonchalance, the Federal Government has suddenly woken up from her seeming slumber and poor disposition to solid minerals sector especially following the collapse in crude oil price and attacks on oil installations by aggrieved Niger Delta militias.
Interestingly, there has always been a full-fledged federal ministry in charge of solid minerals sector development. But the snag remains lack of proactive commitment that is equal to the prompt attention given to development of crude oil sector.
To move from concentrating on the oil sector, the current administration listed solid minerals as one of its priority sectors. A data of Nigerian Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative (NEITI) identified over 40 different solid mineral deposits across Nigeria, which are hugely untapped.
The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development under the leadership of Dr. Kayode Fayemi has identified seven strategic minerals (coal, bitumen, limestone, iron ore, barites, gold and lead) for priority development.
For instance, national reserves of coal are estimated at 2.7 billion metric tonnes (mt), iron ore, limestone and lead are 10 billion mt, 3 trillion mt and 5 million mt respectively.
These minerals are scattered in several parts of the country. While coal is dominantly located in the south eastern region, iron ore is hugely found at Itakpe in Kogi Central.
The Nigerian coal is indubitably good for boiler fuel, production of high caloric gas, domestic heating and manufacturing of a wide range of chemicals including waxes, resins, adhesives and dyes.
Renewed commitment
The current administration since coming on board has never held back its committed to developing the sector as a veritable tool for wealth creation and employment generation.
Fayemi restated the commitment recently at the 53rd annual international conference and exhibition of the Nigerian Mining and Geo-sciences Society in Abuja.
He said the government’s commitment to addressing challenges in the sector was one sure step that will put the sector in its right place, adding that the government’s aspiration was to build a world class minerals and mining ecosystem designed to serve a targeted domestic and export market for minerals and ores. To this end, the minister added that funding, which is one of the major challenges, was being addressed.
While working to resolve issues concerning the Ajaokuta Steel Company and illegal mining activities in the country, experts say creating an enabling environment for investors to thrive was also important to the new aspiration.
The potential of this sector is not in dispute. It can transform the economy from its current dormant state to first class status obtainable in advanced climes. This will, however, not happen in vacuum except the Federal Government does the needful by driving the process.




Source. NewTelegraph

by administrator News