By Gabriel EWEPU
EXPORTS in the solid minerals sector hit N26. 9 billion in first quarter of 2018, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, on total foreign trade.
According to NBS, the amount represents 0.55 per cent of total trade in the sector, which stood at N39.6 billion, while imported solid minerals stood at N12.6 billion representing 17.3 per cent.
The report by the agency showed that the highest exported solid mineral in the first quarter was Naphthalene, which N13. 4 billion worth of the commodity was exported to the United States of America, followed by the Netherlands at N4.5 billion.
Other highly exported solid mineral under review within the period was Zinc ore and concentrates of N2.4 billion to China, followed by Cement to Togo and Ghana which stood at N1. 8 billion, and N0.4 billion respectively.
Lead ore was also exported to South Korea and China to the tune of N0. 38 billion, and N0.3 billion respectively within the period.
Meanwhile, the report stated that Nigeria’s solid minerals import in the first quarter of 2018 stood at N12. 6 billion, while plaster of calcined gypsum, was imported to the tune of N2.5 billion from Turkey, N0.6 billion was imported from Tunisia, Egypt N0.3 billion, and N0.1 billion worth from China.
Other imports were crude salt from Brazil and Namibia-N2.1 billion and N1.5 billion respectively.
Gypsum, other compressed salt, and hydraulic cement imported from Spain, China and the Netherlands worth 1.4 billion, N0.5 billion and N0.3 billion respectively.
However, reacting to performance recorded in the sector, stakeholders urged the government to do more in order to compete favourably with other countries by putting in place critical infrastructure and value addition on exported solid minerals including support for operators, funding, empowerment of miners and other interventions.
In his assertion, the Group Executive Director, BUA, Kabiru Rabiu, said with the increase recorded in solid minerals export, the government should do more to position the sector for better performance.
Rabiu said; “We definitely have to do a lot more given that Nigeria is blessed with so much mineral resources. If you look at the solid mineral for example the only major one that we are doing now is cement production but other areas such as iron and steel, we have a lot of iron ore, we have not done much.
“China is importing billions of dollars of worth of steel and they are using their local ore for production, we could do a lot there but for our consumption and for export.
“If you look at gold for example, we have a lot of gold in places like Zamfara and in Kebbi States but we are not exploring any gold. If you look at very important materials such as tantalite, barite and all those including tin which is abundant, in the past they were being mined but now they are not being mined. So I believe we can do 30 or 40 times of what we are doing now with very little efforts.”
He also acknowledged the progress recorded in the cement industry, which the commodity recorded high export, tasked the government to also open up other sub-sectors as it did for cement.
He pointed out that some the challenges in the sector that government has to tackle include critical infrastructure, reliable data for investors, and adequate funding.
“There are few things and the first thing that comes to mind is infrastructure. Today, if you want to mine in Nigeria you have to build your own infrastructure which ought to have been done by the government.
“Most of these resources are in very remote areas, so some of them you don’t have access, there is no road network, there is no power supply and there are no amenities for the miners or the people to work there and so it is difficult for a private sector to come and provide all these infrastructures for your operation. So the big companies are able to do it because of their capacity.
“Number two, is information. I think the government doesn’t have adequate information for investors to participate in the sector. So I think those are the two key areas that need intervention”, he said. Meanwhile, he also expressed optimism that with the current push and momentum by the government, the sector will make more progress in the second quarter of 2018.
“I think there would be more progress in the sector. Nigerian mining sector is actually one of the key focuses of this administration just like they are focusing a lot on agriculture. The federal government is doing so much, such that it stimulates investments into the sector and also to have a better policy in place.
“So with the objective and with that momentum, I think there is going to be growth in the sector not only towards the last quarter of this year. But going forward I think the sector will continue to grow with the current drive that we are seeing from this administration”, he added.
According to the National President of Miners Association of Nigeria, MAN, Sani Shehu, the government should concentrate more on developing capacity of miners with adequate support to move the sector forward.
“We want to express happiness that the sector is growing steadily but slowly. The federal government must be commended for ability to get all the mining literature that supposed to attract investors.
“But apart from that the human component in mining should be addressed properly. Nigeria’s mining sector is characterized largely by small scale operators and these operators most of them are informal, some of them unlicensed.
“Any reform programme must take into consideration of the environment. You can draw road-map and generate data and some other things at the same time you should also support the existing miners that are already in the field. Support them to formalize, mechanized to enable their operations.
“Giving this growth by the NBS, it could be associated with the previous effort of government, and if more efforts are made it could bring about more revenue generation”, Shehu stated.
Also speaking, President of Women in Mining, WIM, Nigeria, Mrs. Janet Adeyemi, said government should embark on local globalization of the sector.
“The sector actually is growing according to National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, report in the first quarter. What the government needs to do for more growth in the sector is local globalization, and this means all we do in Nigeria should be done with the local resources we have.
“For instance government can ban the importation of tiles based on the clay, granite we have, then let there be standardization and laboratory. When we start this our local consumption will be high. This will lead to little to import and so much to export.
“We also have high quality of lead for battery production. BMW has budget huge amount of money for research and exploration to be able to have access to lead batteries and others”, she added.