Experts and scholars in the mining sector, who met in Abuja at the weekend to review options and strategies most suitable for gainful exploitation of the nation’s sold minerals have suggested more liberal laws apart from the complete overhaul of the sector to make it more viable and attractive to investors.
The one day seminar, which focused on “Legislative interventions in Nigeria’s mining sector for sustainable revenue generation,” as its theme, warned that restrictive federal and local laws, banditry and the high cost of mining in remote parts of the country have collectively turned the sector into a highly risky area where serious financiers are afraid to invest in.
President, Nigerian Chambers of Mining, Alhaji Sani Shehu, stated this in an interview after the seminar that mining which required huge capital investment needs that the federal government should create the attractive and conducive investment climate to bring in big-time investors.
He regretted that the situation now can be compared to “throwing stones into the ocean” adding that “no matter how long one throws in money into the sector now, no visible results or profit either will be attracted in a short or long period.”
The way forward, he stated, is for the government to create the environment that will help bring in foreign investors who have the type of capital and the equipment that the sector requires to become profitable.
“If we can organise the mining sector well, we should be able to attract foreign investment and this will help the nation diversify its economy from being petrol dependent to an economy which can rely on other areas to thrive.
“Also, the security of lives and properties must be guaranteed in communities where miners choose to operate. Nobody [whether foreign or local] will ignore the risk of being kidnapped or killed to chase after solid minerals.
“There should also be serious budgetary contributions to the mining sector to help the area to grow as rapidly as it deserves before it can contribute significantly to the economy of the nation.
Another participant, Barrister [Dr.] Mainasara Kogo Umar, who is a member of the governing council of the Federal College of Education in Adamawa state, also called for a proper survey and delineation of parts of the country where solid mineral deposits can be found in commercial quantities.
He stated that proper mapping of the nation’s mineral deposits will help provide instant data and information to would-be investors especially those foreigners who are desirous of investing and exploiting the minerals.
He said such mineral sites should be declared free trade zones with guaranteed tax exemptions as incentive for would be investors while state and local government administrations should invest and refrain from undue interference in the activities of miners.
“The government should guarantee the security of lives and properties of miners and other workers on site while efforts should be made to ensure that mining is easy in the country. The Land Use Act should be looked into as it affects mining. Security is paramount. There should be better infrastructure like roads and electricity, among others.
“Above all, the government should organise international exhibitions to showcase to the international community the type of mineral resources in the country. There are global markets for every conceivable type of solid mineral. We should begin to exploit those markets.” Dr Umar remarked.
Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na Allah, who was the Chief Host at the occasion told newsmen that the meeting was convened to help experts and scholars proffer solutions, after critically appraising the problems weighing down the solid mining sector and why the nation has not been earning substantial revenue from its rich resources.
“What is going on in the country today should be a source of serious concern for everyone. Many people still have the colonial mentality and think that everything which belongs to government is nobody’s property. So, people misuse government items without fear of repercussions.
“People are taking undue advantage and exploiting the mineral resources for themselves when the sector can help the nation’s economy to stabilise and grow. This was what we gathered here today to discuss and to see how we can help the government to properly harness its mineral resources for national development,” Professor Na’Allah said.