By Luka Biniyat
FOLLOWING the recent cabinet dissolution, the Ministry of Solid Minerals was handed over to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Engr. Sheik Musa Goni as directed by the acting President.
After the formal power transfer by Diezani Allison MaduekeÂ , Goni disclosed to Saturday Vanguard Business what he had not told anybody about the ministry.
The Permanent Secretary saidÂ that under the former Minister, the total grant from the World Bank in support of solid minerals development in the country had risen toÂ $200 millionÂ from N120 million in 2006.
According to him, theÂ World Bank had in the pastÂ provided $120m for the artisanal miners and an additional $80m in the last one year to promote medium scale mining activities.
â€œThe World Bank would have winded up their Sustainable Mineral Development Programme in Nigeria last year, but she was the one who passionately appealed, and it graciously agreed to extend the facility by another $80 million dollarsâ€, he said.
According to him, the amount is targeted at the medium and low scale miners, who usually suffer the burden of Nigerian Bank loans.
Goni disclosed that the former minister has actually rejuvenated the sector, when artisinal miners were empowered through cooperatives, with $10 million soft loans.
â€œThe problem with her is that she does not know how to blow her trumpet. AsÂ a journalist covering this sector, you can recall that we have stopped issuing new mineral titles since 2007 after the ministry observed that the first 2000Â issued were done in error and against some provision of the Mines and Mineral Act of 2007â€, he noted.
He however,Â said that by last year, there were over 9000 applications for mineral titlesÂ that had piled up allÂ begging for processing.
â€œBetween October last year to date, we have completed processing ofÂ 9,300 applications for mining licenses and improved on our speed of processing application to 24 hours.
â€œThat slowed down the industry but when she came, she studied the situation and listened to good counsel.She then went on to lift the embargoâ€, he said.
According to Goni , â€œWe would have issued out new licenses next week, if we had a Minister. We had to take a bold decision to revalidate and ensure that all the licenses issued conformed with the appropriate governingÂ of the sector.â€
On the issue of wooing foreign investors, he argued that Madueke had surpassedÂ every former Minister in prospecting for investors abroad.
â€œShe single-handedly brought in the Worldâ€™s biggest Bank – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the ICBCÂ Directors came to the Ministry last year, looked at what she was doing and went back to China.This Bank hasÂ investors whose turnover is in the region of $20 billion annually. The ICBC later invited the Ministry where we met with high profile and deep pocket mining firms. Today, these companies are in Nigeria, mining. Yet the Minister was rather shy of showcasing that achievement.
â€œThe London Stock Exchange allowed firms who have been issued licenses and are mining in Nigeria, to speak to investors right on the floor of the stock exchange. The companies were the one marketing Nigeria for us, and that provedÂ very effective in persuading blue chips mining companies that had their reservations about Nigeria.
â€œThe mineral sector is fast bouncing back, and ifÂ we have Minister like her again, we should be back on the world mining map in a couple of yearsâ€, he submitted.
He said that one of the most significant achievement of the former Minister is the 95% completion of Nigerian Geophysical survey last yearContinuing he said, â€œThe Survey gives you information on where to look for the mineral you are looking for, If you donâ€™t have a geophysical map, you are not yet ready to start mining.
It is a very expensive venture, but we did it using about the best company in the world forÂ this specialized service. In the last one and half years we have developedÂ the National Coal resources into eleven (11) Strategic Coal Clusters, specifically for investors interested in coal-fired power plants. This Ministry has also established the Framework for the Development of Coal to Power Plants.â€
Still disclosing how the ministry is being positioned, to become an investorâ€™s heaven Goni said, â€œit was under her tenure that theÂ on-going open and competitive bidding process for the allocation of Bitumen and Tar Sand Blocks in South West Nigeria is taking place. She hasÂ also presented a bill for the National Metallurgical Training Center, Onitsha and Nigerian Institute of Mining and GeoSciences, Jos to the Executive Council of the Federation for onward transmission to the National Assemblyâ€, he said.
On the shut down Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), he said that Nigeria could have continued to lose greatly if she had not convinced the acting president to re-open the functioning parts of the plants.
â€œShe came here when the two companies were closed down as a result of the problems that Global Holding Infrastructure Limited created while running the two companies. When she came, she set up a committee made up of the Ministry officials, Ministry of Labour; officials from the Union a consulting firm and other stake holdersâ€, he said.
Accordingly, Goni stated that the committee came out with a â€œbusiness case scenarioâ€ where it confirmed the companyÂ can actually make money by operating the completed section of ASCL and keep the workersÂ busy.
â€œShe was a patient Minister who listened, She would listen patiently to details and she is blessed with a sharp analytical mind. She has brought solid things for Nigerian mineral and metals sector. But, if we have a good, hardworking and dedicated Minister, the best for the industry would be to allow thatÂ person stay long enough to implement policiesâ€, he added.
Instructively, Goni began his career in 1980 as a Mining Engineer with the National Mining Corporation, Jos and rose to become Senior Mineral Process Engineer 1982 to 1985; Principal Mineral Process Engineer 1985 to 1987; Assistant Chief Mineral Process Engineer 1987 to 1990 and General Manager, Corporate Infrastructure and Projects, 2000.