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Solid Minerals sector has been rejuvenated to boost our economy,Engr Goni

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 Madueke  , Goni disclosed to Saturday Vanguard Business what he had not told anybody about the ministry.

The Permanent Secretary said  that under the former Minister, the total grant from the World Bank in support of solid minerals development in the country had risen to  $200 million  from N120 million in 2006.

According to him, the  World Bank had in the past  provided $120m for the artisanal miners and an additional $80m in the last one year to promote medium scale mining activities.

“The 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 dollars”, 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.

“The problem with her is that she does not know how to blow her trumpet. As  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 2000  issued were done in error and against some provision of the Mines and Mineral Act of 2007”, he noted.

He however,  said that by last year, there were over 9000 applications for mineral titles  that had piled up all  begging for processing.

“Between October last year to date, we have completed processing of  9,300 applications for mining licenses and improved on our speed of processing application to 24 hours.

“That slowed down the industry but when she came, she studied the situation and listened to good counsel.She then went on to lift the embargo”, he said.

According to Goni , “We 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 governing  of the sector.”

On the issue of wooing foreign investors, he argued that Madueke had surpassed  every former Minister in prospecting for investors abroad.

“She single-handedly brought in the World’s biggest Bank – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the ICBC  Directors came to the Ministry last year, looked at what she was doing and went back to China.This Bank has  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.

“The 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 proved  very effective in persuading blue chips mining companies that had their reservations about Nigeria.

“The mineral sector is fast bouncing back, and if  we have Minister like her again, we should be back on the world mining map in a couple of years”, 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, “The Survey gives you information on where to look for the mineral you are looking for, If you don’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 for  this specialized service. In the last one and half years we have developed  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.”

Still disclosing how the ministry is being positioned, to become an investor’s heaven Goni said, “it was under her tenure that the  on-going open and competitive bidding process for the allocation of Bitumen and Tar Sand Blocks in South West Nigeria is taking place. She has  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 Assembly”, 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.

“She 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 holders”, he said.

Accordingly, Goni stated that the committee came out with a “business case scenario” where it confirmed the company  can actually make money by operating the completed section of ASCL and keep the workers  busy.

“She 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 that  person stay long enough to implement policies”, 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.


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