According to Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, despite their vast mineral resources, some African countries have continued to account for a slow phase of socio-economic development.
Adegbite stated this on Monday at the first International Conference and Exhibitions of the Nigerian Society of Economic Geologists (NSEG) in Abuja, represented by Mr. Obadiah Nkom, Director-General, Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office.
The event’s theme was “Economic Diversification and the Role of Geoscientists.”
He stated that despite their vast mineral resources, Nigeria and some African countries continue to under-utilize their minerals, which he described as unacceptable.
“Our country is known for having a monolithic economy in which oil accounts for nearly 90% of foreign exchange earnings.”
“The current administration found this upsetting and promised to find immediate solutions to the problems.”
“I regard the theme of this event as strategic and timely, given the pressing need to diversify our economy for national prosperity.”
“The theme seeks to define the roles of critical stakeholders in the development of the minerals sector, key among which are the government, private sector, and professionals driving the mineral sector development process,” he explained.
According to the minister, as part of the Federal Government’s effort to reposition the Solid Minerals Sector, the ministry identified some gaps in 2016, such as a lack of geoscientific data and geological knowledge.
Other critical binding constraints to the sector’s development include poor implementation and enforcement of mining law and regulations, poorly regulated and informal artisans, and the small-scale mining sub-sector.
He stated that the ministry was compelled to immediately begin the process of developing a detailed sector Roadmap aimed at advancing certain strategic objectives.
He stated that the process would eventually result in the creation of a globally competitive sector capable of contributing to wealth creation and job creation, among other things.
According to Adegbite, the private sector was the owner and operator of commercial mining entities and businesses.
He went on to say that this demonstrated the high value that the government placed on the private sector in driving economic development activities.
“The geoscientist plays an invaluable role in driving mineral exploration activities that cannot be overstated.”
He stated that such activities always resulted in mineral discoveries and the preparation of definitive feasibility reports on the viability of mineral reserves.
“The geoscientists’ efforts yield the prized mineral raw materials that serve as the foundation of the modern industrial revolution.”
He urged geoscientists and stakeholders to back the government’s policy and efforts to diversify the nation’s economy, with the mineral sector serving as a key driver.
He went on to say that the results of such efforts would benefit Nigerians and the unborn generation.
The President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS), Mr. Alabo Charles, stated that the Federal Government had identified mining and agriculture as viable options in its effort to diversify the nation’s economy away from reliance on oil and gas.
” Much has been done to create the necessary framework and conducive environment for mining to play a pivotal role in this regard.”
“Although Nigeria is committed to a free enterprise system, the government should continue to play important roles in the mining industry, in addition to its traditional regulatory functions.”
“The Federal Government should also provide some critical information needed to stimulate and encourage investment to maximize our country’s vast mineral wealth.”
“The Nigerian Constitution grants the Federal Government control over all natural resources, implying that private ownership of solid minerals is prohibited in Nigeria.”
According to Dr. Abdulrasaq Garba, Director-General of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), the event was supposed to take place in 2021 but was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions and funding challenges, among other things.
Garba, who also serves as President of the Nigerian Society of Economic Geologists (NSEG), added that the strategic objectives, professional targets, and timelines enshrined in the society’s constitution must be pursued and met.
“We need to brainstorm on the emerging challenges arising from our profession’s dynamic operating environment, particularly in the face of the new normal, occasioned by the much-discussed need to diversify the Nigerian economy.”
“In light of this, we have invited professional geoscience experts and external stakeholders to share their knowledge and experience with us on the path forward.”