By Gabriel Ewepu
THE former President of Miners Association of Nigeria, MAN, Sani Shehu, has said that poor mechanization is stalling diversification of the economy through the mining sector.
Shehu stated this while speaking with Energy Vanguard on the need for government to adequately address the issue of mechanization of all mining operations across the country as it is doing currently in the agricultural sector.
According to him, the digger and shovel kind of mining would not achieve the Buhari-led administration’s quest to diversify the economy through mining, which goes beyond being on the mining sector roadmap.
He stated: “The digger and shovel kind of mining will not take us anywhere, and when Nigeria was recognised as a formidable mining country in the world that position was not achieved by digger and shovels it was mechanized mining that earned Nigeria that position.
“At a point, I think we were number eight in tin production and number two or so in columbite production. If we want to rewind history, we really need to venture into mechanization and not through lots of lip-service. The government intention should be backed by action.”
He also expressed optimism that government will increase its attention on the mining sector as seen in the agricultural sector with all vigour to mechanise the sector.
“But we strongly hope that government will also increase their attention on mining as we have seen it do in the agricultural sector. Agric is being vigorously promoted by government and the result is seen.
“Although the lifespan of crop cultivation and animal husbandry is less than a year, but the output of mining is so much that you cannot compare it with agric.
Agriculture guarantees food to eat but when you talk in terms of generation of foreign exchange, mining will give you what agric will not give you.
“As a matter of strategy, I am appealing to government to pursue the two sectors and give it equal attention, priority and funding so that as you are feeding your people you are also getting foreign exchange that can stabilize your local currency.
With that, you would have controlled the pressure that is on our local currency and you have increased your foreign reserves. So we want the attention given to agriculture to also be extended to mining”, he stressed.
However, he acknowledged that due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic government’s implementation of policies and programmes were slowed down.
“But we have to be reasonable enough to appreciate some of the challenges that are beyond the government, especially the COVID-19 pandemic is an unanticipated challenge that actually hit government off balance, and when the pandemic was about to leave, then the #EndSARS protest and whatever followed it erupted and that also have affected the planning.
“However, like I have said earlier intention alone will not do the miracle of reinvigorating the sector to the level of increase in production and revenue. I will still refer to the outbreak of COVID-19, which might have led to slow place of implementation”, he added.