Bothered that the Federal Government has neglected the sector, the Nigerian Society of Mining Engineers (NSME) has threatened to participate in illegal mining.
The association the gave warning, due to the present administration’s decision to dissolve the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG) and refusal to inaugurate the organisation to regulate professionals and firms in the Nigerian mining sector.
The NSME President, Dr Ebenezer Damisa who made this known at the Nigerian Union of Journalists secretariat in Kaduna during a press briefing, said it members have been complaining of not having license to mine, and that the only way to obtain one is through COMEG, which is yet to be inaugurated.
The association lamented that” Nigeria could not compete globally, as major mining companies do not regard Nigeria as a mining jurisdiction, despite having one of the best mining codes.
“It is common knowledge that the sector has remained stunted since the 1980s and has been contributing less than one per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition to contributing as much as five per cent in the 1970s, the sector was also the largest employer of labour in the non-agrarian sector.
“What we have in our minefields are artisanal miners which contribute very minimally to our GDP despite the variety of mineral assets that Nigeria is blessed with. Indeed, when compared to other mining jurisdictions globally.”
Damisa attributed the under performance of the sector in recent times to poor governance issue, which according to him, has remained major obstacle to the optimal development of the nation’s mineral assets.
He described the Ajaokuta Steel Plant and the National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe as Nigeria’s hope for industrialization.
“Many of our state governments have not given the much desired cooperation to the Federal authorities in the area of investment.”
“There are many instances where potential big time investors have been frustrated and discouraged in taking up investment opportunities in some of the states of federation.
“For about five decades now Nigeria has been making effort to establish an iron and steel production capacity in Ajaokuta. The project has turned out to have the longest gestation period among public sector industrial projects in Nigeria. Successive Nigerian governments have not been able to deploy the political will to do what it requires to finally deliver the Ajaokuta project.
He urged the Federal Government to exercise the political will to resuscitate the dying hope of Nigeria’s industrialization – the Ajaokuta steel plant and the National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe.
We believe the legal and other issues militating against the operationalisation of these industrialisation entities are not beyond President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to resolve.”
Many mines will come on stream to provide mineral raw materials such as iron ore, coking coal, dolomite, magnesite, limestone etc as feedstock to the Ajaokuta Steel Plant. The steel sector cannot succeed without a viable mining sector.
He said the sector would generate employment. “A one million tonne per year steel plant in a country like Nigeria would need to forge the specialized and not so specialized skills and knowledge of not less than 10,000 workforce. Surely, this is a big incentive to make the Ajaokuta Steel plant functional,” he said.