The recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) rating youth unemployment/underemployment at 49.9 per cent, unemployment at 13.3 per cent and underemployment call for concern, considering the state of neglect of the country’s solid minerals sector, which is said to be capable of providing over 500,000 direct and indirect jobs.
A study commissioned by the United Nations Industrial Development Council (UNIDO) led by a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Femi Bamiro, had proved that there are mineral resources in each of the 774 local councils in the country.
The Nigerian Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative, (NEITI ) report suggests that there are about 40 different kinds of solid minerals and precious metals buried in Nigerian soil waiting to be exploited. The commercial value of Nigeria’s solid minerals is estimated to run into hundreds of trillions of dollars, with 70 per cent of these buried in the bowels of Northern Nigeria.
But despite these potential, the Nigerian solid minerals sector has performed below expectation, contributing 0.3 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Synopsis of NEITI 2013 audit report
According to the Minister of Solid Minerals, Mr. Kayode Fayemi, 619 entities made payments to the government in 2013 but the 2013 solid minerals audit reconciled payments by only 65 entities (63 companies and two buying centres) that made payments of N2 million and above. These 65 entities (10.5 per cent of 619) accounted for 90.49 per cent of the total payments for 2013 and six government agencies were covered by the audit.
Total production across the solid minerals sector increased to 46,280,996 tonnes in 2013 as against 37,808,063 tonnes in 2012. The 19 per cent increase was attributed to a 33 per cent rise in limestone production from 18 million tonnes in 2012 to 24 million tonnes in 2013. Also, solid minerals sector accounted for an average of 0.09 per cent of total export earnings for 2013 compared to 0.02 per cent for 2012, with lead ores accounting for over 50 per cent of the value of all solid minerals sector exports for 2013.
Low revenue flows to government
The NEITI report espoused further that a meagre N33.86 billion accrued to the Federation Account from solid minerals sector in 2013. Out of this, payments from cement manufacturing companies accounted for N30.47 billion (89.98 per cent); construction companies, N1.98 billion (5.83 per cent); mining and quarrying companies, N1.42 billion (4.19 per cent).
Stakeholders express concern
President of Miners’ Empowerment Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sunny Ekosin, disclosed that Nigeria loses a whopping N8 trillion annually in unexploited gold alone. He also said that Ajaokuta remains the key to Nigeria’s industrialisation and that getting it back to work is a matter of patriotism for President Muhammadu Buhari and his team.
Ekosin had in a recent interview said: “If Nigerians were taking data seriously, we would have built a database, where we have authentic information. In 2012, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel came before the nation and said that from our precious metals, specifically from gold exploitation alone, Nigeria is losing N8 trillion ($50 billion) annually.”
According to him, the failure of Nigeria, since independence in 1960, to put in place a structure that will make the benefits of the exploitation of solid minerals available to all Nigerians has been the bane of the nation.
Regrettably, he said at the moment mining of minerals in Nigeria accounts for only 0.3 per cent of its GDP due to the influence of oil resources.
The domestic mining industry, he said, is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import commodities it could produce domestically, such as salt or iron sheets and billets.
According to NEITI’s audit findings, solid mineral deposits are spread all over Nigeria, with more deposits in certain areas than others. Over 40 million tonnes of talc deposits have been identified in Niger, Osun, Kogi, Ogun and Kaduna states.
He explained that there are huge deposits of coal ranging from bituminous to lignite in the Anambra Basin of South-Eastern Nigeria.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Laurel School of Mines, Mr. Tope Adebanjo, said if Nigeria channels the required efforts towards gemstone development, the industry is capable of turning the fortunes of the economy around, maintaining that the multi-billion dollar industry has transformed many economies of the world.
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