North not serious about economic diversification -Commissioner

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By Remi Adebayo

Despite its huge solid mineral deposits and the commitment of the federal government at pursuing the development of the non-oil sector, the North is not prepared to diversify its economy, Sokoto State Commissioner of Solid Minerals, Bello Mohammed has said.

The Commissioner expressed this view at the First Northern Nigeria Solid Minerals Fair and Workshop going on at the Kaduna International Trade Fair Complex.

Mohammed remarked that businessmen, policy makers and political leaders in the region were only paying lip service as there are no visible action to back all the talks about diversification.

“The North is not yet ready to support President Buhari’s government. It is evident by not registering presence overwhelmingly in this hall,” he said.

He regretted that although the North boasts of 90 per cent of solid minerals in the country, a fact that can greatly boost its bargaining power in the union of Nigeria, the region seems comfortable depending on revenues from the Federal Government.

The Commissioner expressed the commitment of the Sokoto State government under Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to embrace diversification of the economy by paying adequate attention to solid minerals development as well as agriculture.

Earlier, in his keynote address, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi said development of the solid minerals sector holds the key to successful implementation of the Federal Government’s economic diversification policy.

Represented by Director of Mines Environmental Compliance in the Ministry, Engr. Sallim Ade Salaam, Fayemi said government is developing the sector to compliment revenue from the oil and gas sector.

Reeling out incentives for investors in the mining sector, the Minister said, “In order to achieve this, adequate regulatory frameworks and investment friendly policies have been put in place to attract genuine investments and fast tract effectiveness in the sector.

“These policies include security of tenure of mineral titles; transparent procedures for granting access to mineral titles on first come first serve basis; internationally competitive mining incentives; comprehensive geosciences data of mineral deposits  and other locations in Nigeria; deferred royalty payments; exemption from Customs and Import Duties for plant, machinery and equipment for mining operations; three to five years tax holiday and tax concessions and many more.

“The need to adequately harness and develop these minerals coupled with the federal government’s efforts to diversify the nation’s economy from her over dependence on revenue from oil led to the establishment of the former Ministry of Solid Minerals Development in 1995, which later transformed to Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in 2005.

“The states in the federation can also take advantage of the available opportunities in the solid minerals sector to create wealth through the formation of special purpose vehicles (SPV) or joint joint venture through public private partnership and obtain mineral titles to operate, extract, beneficiate and create jobs for the men and women in the states,” he advised.

Quoting the Bureau of Statistics, Fayemi said solid minerals ranked among few other thriving economic sectors in spite of the economic recession.

Minister of State in the Ministry, Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari praised the efforts of the organisers for creating the platform to promote the development and exploration of solid minerals.

Mr. Luka Abu, director, Nigerian Geological Survey Agency, Kaduna, who represented the minister reminded the audience that Nigeria used to be the sixth producer of tin metal and columbite based on large tin ore exploration on the plateau and parts of Kaduna Bauchi, Nasarawa and Kogi states.

He lamented that the decline in this status was attributed to neglect in mining after the discovery of oil and gas as well as the indigenization decree of the 1970s which forced foreign miners out of the country.

In order to correct this, Bwari said the Buhari Administration had approved a Roadmap aimed at restoring stability and market confidence in the sector and re-establishing Nigeria as a competitive mining and mineral processing centre while returning the country to the global export market for trading in refined metals and minerals.

Welcoming participants earlier, President of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Dr. Farida Dankaka described the workshop and fair as timely.

According to her, if properly tapped into, solid minerals would not only be a major source of revenue for the country, but one of the largest employers of labour to reduce unemployment through windows of several opportunities.

The three-day fair and workshop organised by the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture and Proedge Limited continues today and will end on Thursday.