THE Federal Government has promised to stop illegal trading on gemstones and precious metals in the nation.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, stated this at the opening session of the 2017 edition of the African Gems and Jewellery Exhibition and Seminar, AGJES, in Abuja.
Fayemi said the government would no longer allow the gemstone industry to be underdeveloped, but would ensure its growth and development, because it serves as a major component of the sector for revenue generation and massive job creation for the populace.
He said: “In my position as Minister of Mines and Steel Development, or what I like to call the Chief Marketing Officer of the Nigerian Mining Jurisdiction, I am frequently approached by many young Nigerians who want to know of opportunities in the industry.
“I unreservedly commend the gems and jewelry segment of our industry to such budding entrepreneurs to explore – you wouldn’t find a more extensive value chain with relatively lower risk profile and entry points.
“However, in spite of the huge potentials in gemstone mining, phenomenal loss of revenue and damage to the environment remain major causes of concern. This is due to the uniqueness of the occurrence of gem deposits and the quantity to value per quantity advantage of gemstones which make illegal activities and smuggling rampant, thus the inability of the sector to deliver on expected economic outcomes.
“Consequently, in past years, the gemstone sector had largely been a vehicle for money laundering, with the average dollar value of Nigerian gems exported put at over $3 billion dollars annually. The local mining industry for gems remained at its primitive level of shovel and digger and Nigeria’s vast untapped gemstone resource was not being optimally exploited for the benefit of Nigerians.
“The goal of our reforms in this segment of the mining industry has been to ensure proper organisation of the gemstone sector from prospecting, to exploration, to mining, processing and marketing of gemstones in Nigeria; with emphasis on regularising the activities of the artisans who mostly engage in it.”
In her keynote address, Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, called for more investments in the mining sector that would grow and develop it for massive job creation.
“Nigeria is richly endowed with remarkable deposits of minerals, our land is not just endowed with crude but it is filled with precious metals, stones, ore and so much more and probably much more that have not been discovered in other parts of the country.
“The focus today is from ‘Mines to Market’, I trust the theme of this seminar is to seek out and ensure ‘Mines to Market’ is a win-win situation for all. It will create opportunity for promoters, investors, advertisers, transporters. Job opportunity for geologists, gemologists who are waiting for the opportunities that would transform their lives”, she said.
Speaking on the impact the seminar would make, one of the conveners, Lotanna Amina Egwuatu said the impact would be on a lot of things, which has been set up to bring a lot of people together.
“People who are miners, cut and polish stones, make jelweries, so is a whole value chain; beneficiation in the gem and precious metals industry is so important for this country at this time because we need to start adding more value we have here rather than taking them out in their raw form.
“We have been saying diversification, this is an area where I believe we are going to gain a lot if we do things well and if the government supports this industry, the gem and jewelry will go so far, because we have large deposits of gemstones of good quality.”