In this interview with Agatha Chitumu, the Vice Chairman of the ECOWAS Federation of Chambers of Mines (EFEFCOM) and former head, Nigeria Miners Association, Alhaji Sani Shehu, speaks on revenue revolution in the mining sector and other sundry issues.
Sir, we will like to know from you if as a would-be driver of Nigeria’s economy, the solid mineral sector could galvanize enough revenue to justify its readiness?
Well, let me start by saying that although the revenue generated from the solid minerals is relatively low compared to other sector, however if you compare the performance of the sector in the last few years, you will notice that there is steady increase in the revenue generation from the sector.
The revenue generated used to be N 2.2 billion in 2014 to N 3.7 billion in 2018 and now N 5.2 billion in 2019. As you can see, there is a steady increase. So, for me there is hope and it is possible for the sector to drive Nigeria’s economy in the future.Meanwhile, for government to galvanize increase; there is the need for it to work towards and also encourage some investments in the sector. Aside having robust machinery in place; there should also be provision of adequate logistics and training of personnel in the sector.
Revenue generation in solid minerals varies from State to State. While some states have very higher activities in mining, some others have low activities.
But in any case, when we have robust machinery that is in charge of collection, I think government will experience an increase on one hand. On the other hand, there is also the need to encourage massive and aggressive sensitization. By so doing, stakeholders in the sector would be well informed know that paying mining revenue is part of civil responsibilities.
Then again, for the sector to contribute to the expected revenue, government must equally make some critical or strategic investment. It is expected that those in charge of the revenue collection of the sector, should be supported with the needed resources to operate and deliver.
I understand that some vehicles are needed to carry out some work and a few staff too, to enhance mining activities. I think government should also look into that.
What about investments, are foreign investors showing interest in our mineral resources?
Of course yes. Over the years, there has been influx of foreigners coming around to express interest in one mineral resources or another. In essence, they have also been carrying out necessary activities in line with the country’s policy. So, I will say yes to some extent.
I also understand that plan is in the offing to give some would-be investors target on what they should generate, recruiting of officials, provision of adequate logistics and all that.
Therefore there is need to sensitize mining group and every other stakeholders not only on their involvement but to also create an avenue for.
As you are already aware policy and enabling environment goes hand-in-hand, what has government done in that respect?
Like I mentioned earlier, the mining community needs to be further sensitized to cooperate with the operators.
I also think that until an enabling environment is created for the operators to operate well and make profit as investors, all we are saying would only amount to rhetoric and may not hold water.
On the part of the citizenry too, I also think government deserves a collective support from them so that government can meet aspiration of generating additional revenue from the mining industry.
Having said that; it would not be out of place to add here that government policy too, should be driven by action just as additional investment in the area of data generation exploration would not be a bad idea.
More importantly, there is need for government to not only encourage more foreign and local investors, but to also have more information at their disposal to dish out as at when due. Until all this is done, the aspiration of huge revenue generation as being envisaged by sectoral players and government as it were may not be tenable.
How profitable is the mining sector, I mean can investor galvanize expected profit?
Well I should let you know that the business is profitable especially if it is done on a large scale. And when I say large scale, it means that exploration is involved. I hope you know what that means. It is both money-spinning and involved a lot of logistics.
For instance, at the moment, our own mining company is into exploration, but it is a small scale operation of Geromite.
Here in Nigeria there is no institutions for exploration, unlike other advanced mining jurisdiction but all the same, if you do mining well, you will make some profit and attached to it there is also provision of employment for the people.
So in all, it is not a bad business to venture into.
Let me use our own as an example. We have started exploration as we speak, but we are faced with difficulties.
We have exploration license to carry out mining activities in Zamfara state, but the issue of insecurity caught up with us, and therefore we have to suspend exploration.
Nevertheless, we are hoping and praying that this would be over soon so that activities can commence in earnest.
Are you not worried that lack of technology may hinder domestic players from partaking fully?
Well to some extent, but the good thing is that the target buyers for the mining products including metal are usually foreigners from Europe, Asia and sometimes USA.
Unfortunately too, due to low presence and in some instance lack of technology, some players refused to be involved in the business.
But as for the industrial mineral, we have so many industries in Nigeria who are involved in it and are doing just well in business.