By Moses Nosike
The state of Nigeria’s mines and steel sector was not at its best when Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite came on board.
Without mincing words, the sector was neglected for the oil boom, as a result it could not deliver the desired, much expected and long awaited results on Nigeria’s economy. Following that neglect, the big expatriate mining companies left the country and the sector fell into doldrums, waiting for a redeemer.
As if that was not enough, the neglect of the sector also left millions of Nigerian citizens who would have been gainfully employed remained unemployed especially the youths who are now roaming in the streets engaging themselves in all sorts of crime, poising a big threat to national security.
However, this neglect didn’t not only affect the GDP of the country but also increased the poverty level in the land. Meanwhile, it was also discovered that with over 44 mineral resources the country can boast of, if all the revenue generated from them are properly harnessed, it would increase the revenue base of the country.
All this put together must have been one of the reasons President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite to take over the 40-year-old Ajaokuta Steel Company in Kogi State that had been begging for resuscitation and completion that would reposition the country to join in the comity of nations on wealth creation.
Now President Buhari has risen to the challenge of resuscitating the moribuned steel plant. This is in fulfillment of his re-election campaign promise of completing Ajaokuta before the end of his second term in office in 2023. This was part of his commitment to industrialising the country and leaving it better than he met it by 2023.
With the President, the completion of the steel plant will, without doubt, empower his administration to create jobs, boost the manufacturing sector, and drive the growth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It was also highlighted that, “With the advent of the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Act 2007 and the Nigerian Mineral and Mining Regulations 2011, the country launched itself as a mining destination once again. Another highlight is what the sector has done for the artisanal miners; over 1500 cooperatives have been registered nationwide as Mining Cooperatives and about 250 Private Mineral Buying Centres are also registered to facilitate trading in Mineral commodities.
Sources available to Saturday Vanguard revealed that to ensure environmental mitigation in the mines field, Environmental Laws and Regulations are being enforced to the later. “Nigeria, also last year organized the 2nd International Conference on Artisanal Gold Mining with Lead alongside with Medicines San Frontiers (MSF). The forum declared opened by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, GCON was to provide strategies to prevent lead poisoning associated with artisanal gold mining, pulling from lessons learned in Zamfara and Niger states, as well as international contexts.
Also, the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency is undertaking the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project in order to provide credible Geosciences data for potential investors in the industry. The Nigerian Mining Cadastre office (MCO) has also upgraded and streamlined its licensing regime. The Investment Promotion and Mineral Trade Department has also been strengthened to provide information on investment opportunities in the industry as well as areas of linkages in the downstream in the industry”.
Again, for effective sector operation, it was revealed however, that the development of Integrated Automated and Interactive Mineral Projects (IAIMP) is another milestone achieved by the sector, and this allows for migration of all processes in the Ministry online for assessment for anyone from anywhere in the world. “The benefits from this include payment of royalties, rendering of returns, granting of licenses and permits with ease without physical interaction with the Ministry officials. Activities of other agencies and parastatals of the Ministry are also accessible through the portal. Re-activation of Special Mines Surveillance Task force. This is established to deal with all forms of illegal mining activities and checkmate insecurity in the mining sector nationwide. Automation, Upgrading and Migration of Mining Cadastre System online for easy mining title applications submission and processing”.
Continuing, it was said that the most celebrated achievement so far is the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project (NIMEP). “The federal government awarded a contract sometimes last year after the approval of the Federal Executive Council. The project involves about N14 billion ($45 million) and it is to be undertaken nationwide and will involve the exploration of Base Metals, Rare Earth Metals and Industrial Metals like Lead, Zinc, Barite, and Iron Ore. Preliminary result indicates significant success in the project. The result is to provide a commercially viable data that can be accessed by foreign investors in order to contribute meaningfully to wealth creation, employment generation and contribute meaningfully to the national GDP. Also the Automation and Upgrading of Mining Cadastre Office (MCO) on line to enable interested mineral title applicants assess their services”.
In anticipation of 2020, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite said, “In 2020, the result of NIMEP is going to be released. This result will further unlock the investment potential of the sector. Government would go ahead to dissect the areas into blocks and undertake internationally competitive bidding process in order to commence serious mining activities in the country. Furthermore, more drilling and trenching of the existing areas will be undertaken.
Government will also strengthen the Solid Mineral Development Fund, provide more funds to the Artisanal and Small-scale Miners, strengthen the Investment Promotion and Mineral Trade Department to undertake its function and fund properly the Surveillance Task Force of Mines Inspectorate in order to curb out illicit trading in mineral commodities. The sector has a potential to actually compete favorably if not surpass the oil sector if well funded. Solid minerals and agriculture can contribute greatly in employment generation, wealth and contribute to the nation’s GDP.
Based on the efforts to revitalise the steel plant, the Honourable Minister, said that the President is passionate about diversifying the economy in the face of the present reality, knowing that oil and gas is no longer sufficient.
According to Adegbite, the President Buhari has shown so much commitment to the sector. I thank him for his vision, support towards achieving this laudable project that would move the country forward. Today he has helped to change the face of mines and steel industry from what it used to be.
Also as part of efforts to empower the sector for full optimization, President Muhammadu Buhari led the Nigerian delegation to the Russia-Africa summit. Based on this, some Nigerians also have believed that the recent signing of a bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Russia is a good initiative towards revamping the steel plant for greater achievement.
Commenting on the benefits of the MoU with the Ministry of Trade and Investment of Russian Federation, in Sochi Russia, the Honourable Minister, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite said it will boost the scientific and technical cooperation in the field of Geosciences between Nigeria and Russia. “The MoU which the Honourable Minister signed on behalf of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency, (NGS), of the Ministry of Mines and Steel development also had the African Export-Import Bank as a party to it.
According to the Minister, the MoU is to express the commitment of the parties to conduct activities in the fields of Geoscience on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefits.
Adegbite said also that other benefits include exchanges of scientific and technical information, exchange study visits and scientists, collaboration on research activities, joint organisation of symposia and many more.
Permanent Secretary, Dr. Abdulkadir Muazu, praised the leadership of Adegbite in masterminding the agreement, saying that the signing of the MoU is another dimension to the success that the ministry is achieving in international collaborations.
From steps take so far by the minister and stakeholders of the sector, it seems that all hopes is not lost. A reliable source in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development said that the ministry is relentlessly working in line with the projections of the President, to contribute to lifting 100million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. The source said further that from what we have seen so far, the Honourable Minister, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, stakeholders are working to break that jinx and deliver desired results Nigerians are expecting from the sector and the confident the President bestowed on the ministry. The source also said that the Honourable Minister, is targeting to take the sector to the level of global standard.
In addition, Partner, advisory and mining leader, PWC, Cyril Azobu, said that from day one the Honourable Minister got on board, he has demonstrated sincerity and has brought a lot of inspiration to the sector. Azobu said that the minister has shown a level of interest, a willingness to collaborate that is quite astounding. “I am very confident that there is a very big future for the mining industry in the next four years because of this minister.
In the same vein, President, Miners Association of Nigeria, Kabir Mohammed Kankara, said that the Honourable Minister, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite came with the zeal, vision and mission to raise the mining sector to the highest level, and he has shown a willingness to collaborate and work with all stakeholders.
Director-General, Mining Cadastre Officer, Engr. Obadiah Nkom said, “the honourable minister, even though he has barely been in this sector for few months has turn around the industry. What he is doing are the things foreign investors want to see. He has really given foreign investors confidence to come into the country.
On the transformation that has taken place in mining sector, the minister recently commissioned the Geological mineral Museum, a historical centres where monumental artefacts and records are archived. The National Geological Museum will harbour diverse historic geological information and data purposely for Geological Research, education and public outreach/enlightenment.