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FG promises to develop, secure gemstone value chain

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…as AGJES promoters offer platform to boost gemstones trading

By Gabriel Ewepu and Grace Samuel

ABUJA-THE Federal Government, yesterday, promised to develop and secure gemstones value chain for more productivity and curbing illegal business in the industry.

This was the assurance made in the speech delivered by the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bwari, at the 2018 African Gems Jewelry Exhibition and Seminars, AGJES, in Abuja with theme, ‘Mines to Market: Collaborating to Improve Industry Linkages; healing Africa through Gemstones’ 2018.

Bwari said based on the quality and quantity of gemstones in the country with high economic value the government will do all within its power to ensure that the industry is taken to the next level while the private sector drives it according to laws guiding mining, processing and export in the sector.

Promoters of 2018 AGJES are Mrs. Lotanna Amina Okpukpara, a graduate in jewelry making from the Gemological Institute of America, GIA; Mrs Jummai Muhammed-Oluyede, GIA alumni, Ms. Emily Achor, a geologist, Mr Uzo Ike, business mogul and, Amb Mrs. Regina Edzuwah, a lawyer and a retired career diploma and GIA alumni.

He said: “I must begin by commending the hard-working team of organisers whose efforts have brought this event to fruition. Their resilience exemplifies the kind of patience required to operate in the mining sector which has such a long gestation period.

“According to our laws, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is not an operator but a regulator of the sector, but we realise that we cannot achieve the objectives of this government in the Solid mineral sector without the collaboration of stakeholders like these.

“This is why we continue to support the initiatives of the organisers in using this event as a platform for creating a viable local market, and access to foreign markets for locally produced gems and jewelry.

“We have since begun reforms in the sector with the hope of ensuring proper policing of the gemstone sector across the value chain from prospecting, to exploration, to mining, processing and marketing.

“The seminars will therefore help in educating the world about the beautiful gemstones we have in Nigeria from the blue sapphires at the plains of the Mambilla to the amazing rubelite tourmaline that recently sold at 180 dollars per carat.

He also expressed optimism that with the current effort by the ministry artisans in the gem industry “get good prices for their gemstones while boosting our GDP by ensuring due repatriation of gemstone export proceeds through the CBN”, but however he said that, “Ironically, the sheer beauty of our gemstones makes them easy prey for smugglers and money launderers.”

Meanwhile, earlier delivering her address of welcome spokesperson of the 2018 AGJES promoters, Amb Mrs. Regina Edzuwah, said the platform will boost the Nigerian gems and jewelry industry based on the potential it holds globally.

“The AGJES have deployed funding for mineral gemstones that have the potential of significantly contributing to wealth and job opportunities by creating a platform to galvanize the development of the gemstones, precious metals and jewelry value chain in Nigeria, ultimately to position Nigeria as a commercial hub for the industry, throughout the African continent and globally”, Edzuwah said.

However according to her Nigeria’s production of gemstones and jewelry is hardly recognized or featured in any analysis of the global industry, even at that “Nigeria’s sapphires and tourmalines are quite often noted for their quality in spite of being the largest economy in Africa, it is common knowledge that the mining industry in Nigeria is hugely underdeveloped and some general issues plaguing the gemstones value chain are widespread illegal activities, weak oversight, minimal value addition and low revenue collection”, she stated.

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