The Federal Government of Nigeria has prohibited the export of raw gold, gemstones, and other solid minerals, according to Mines and Steel Development Minister Olamilekan Adegbite. According to the minister, the ban was imposed in response to the government’s recently approved ‘Down Stream Mineral Policy.’
Adegbite, who spoke at a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja, said the policy would help the country avoid mistakes in the oil and gas sector. He claimed that an enabling environment had been created for stakeholders in the mining and steel industries to add value to mineral deposits before exporting them.
“If you mine and you cannot process it yourself, you can sell it off to processors in Nigeria. These processors would either buy it off you totally or process and resell or they can process and return it to you. That is the policy in Nigeria now because we do not want to lose jobs or wealth to other countries,” the minister said.
The minister stated that upon taking office in 2019, he noticed that the mining sector was beginning to make the same mistakes as the oil and gas sector, saying, “You know what we do in the oil and gas sector. We export crude oil and import petroleum into the country; by that, we export all our jobs.
“I said we cannot make the same mistake with mining, so I started very early in 2019 to develop a policy called ‘Down Stream Mineral Policy.’”
He described the policy’s approval by the Federal Executive Council as a watershed moment for the sector, saying it would go a long way toward repositioning it. The minister cited the numerous benefits of kaolin, a mineral resource abundant in Bauchi State, saying it is used in the pharmaceutical, plastic, cosmetics, and paint industries.
Adegbite went on to say that as a result of the policy, the government had established demonstration policy centres in Bauchi and other places.
He urged foreign and domestic investors who are not interested in mining to invest in processing. Adegbite expressed confidence that the Kano Gold Souk and other regional projects being carried out by the ministry will be completed by 2023.
Adegbite stated that the souk would make Nigeria a world gold destination, adding that Nigeria has trained people “who will make jewellery; they will be residents in that gold souk.”
“In Kano, our gold is being taken out of Nigeria to places like Dubai and others where they turn them into jewellery. You buy them at expensive prices there but when that gold leaves Nigeria in its raw form, they pay next to nothing for it.
“So, we said let’s have a gold souk in Kano which can rival any souk in the world. They will turn the gold in Nigeria into jewellery. They can make bangles, straps, earrings necklaces, and pendants.
“People are trained to do this now so, we are adding value in Nigeria and we are saying that Kano Gold souk can join the world calendar of souks.
“This will enable people to know that at a certain time of the year, we will organise a gold festival in the Kano Gold Souk so that women and men from all over the world can come to Kano and buy gold.
“That is why we have done all these six regional projects and those projects are at advanced stages of completion. We should be commissioning them very soon. We will look at suitable dates to inaugurate these projects early in the New Year.”
The minister also stated that his ministry was training artisanal miners on safe gold processing methods in order to avoid a lead poisoning outbreak.
He blamed the Zamfara lead poisoning outbreak on the activities of artisanal miners, adding that advocacy is ongoing to curb the harmful ways artisanal miners process minerals.
Adegbite said the mining ban in Zamfara was still in effect but would be lifted at the appropriate time by the National Security Adviser. The minister stated that special courts and judges had been designated to handle mining cases in a timely manner.
He urged artisanal miners to broaden their horizons by registering with Cooperative Societies, noting that doing so will allow them to access up to N100 million in loans at a 5% interest rate and a loan repayment period of up to 20 years.
The minister warned that the Federal Government would halt mining operations if companies failed to meet the requirements of their Community Development Agreement (CDA) with their mining communities.
“If we find out that any company’s consent is fake, the company will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and that is perjury which attracts 14 years imprisonment. Before a mining company can work, they must have a CDA unless it’s an illegal operation.”
Adegbite also stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia/Ukraine war slowed the planned start-up of the Ajaokuta Steel Company’s full operation. The minister, on the other hand, stated that the current administration had already laid a solid foundation for the steel company’s full take-off under the next administration.
The minister explained why workers were kept at the Ajaokuta Steel Company despite the fact that the company was not fully operational. He said it was to protect the infrastructure from vandalism.
“The steel territory where Ajaokuta sits is about three times bigger than the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). So, you can imagine an investment of that magnitude being left without people to maintain. If everybody is withdrawn from there, we would not be seated here today talking about Ajaokuta because it will not exist anymore,” he said.