With the price of crude oil plummeting daily on the international market, it is only a matter of time before Nigeria and indeed other oil-dependent nations, adopt and diversify their economies to non-oil sectors.
Available metallurgical data has shown Nigeria as a country richly endowed with a vast variety of solid minerals, including precious metals and stones, industrial minerals such as barytes, gypsum, kaolin, and marble, as well as other minerals like coal, tin, iron-ore, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold. Most of these mineral deposits have yet to be exploited in commercial quantity.
It is estimated that Nigeria possesses more than 400 solid minerals, 40 of which are in commercial quantities but only 13 are at present being exploited. 44 new solid minerals were recently discovered in 800 locations across the country.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria is perhaps one of the most endowed countries in terms of solid minerals but the lack of commensurate investments has deprived the country of the economic value of this solid wealth.
A document from Solid Mines Limited reveals that the sector could add as much as 50 billion dollars to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, up from the current 0.3 percent to 10 percent growth in the next three to five years.
The opportunities in the sector are almost endless, with each state in Nigeria boasting of its own unique solid minerals endowment. When fully harnessed, the revenue base of each of the 36 states and the federal government will expectedly increase exponentially, as many of the strategic minerals are critical to the manufacture of high-tech products for military and other strategic purposes.
In the past, the exploitation of solid minerals was devoid of any due process and consequently, not beneficial to the nation’s economy. Corruption in the awards of mining permits to well-connected persons in collusion with foreign interests, left the environment in several local communities degraded and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of Nigerians.
Furthermore, the solid minerals sector was constrained by poor funding, lack of equipment and personnel, poor training, as well as the lack of effective and actionable policies similar to those instituted for the oil and gas sector. This is all about to change.
The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007 places on the Federal Government, control of all properties and minerals in Nigeria and prohibits unauthorised exploration or exploitation of these minerals.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, has taken the bull by its horns and instituted firm policies and measures to efficiently harness the solid minerals sector, as a first step to diversifying the country’s mono-product economy.
The ambitious master plan envisages the resuscitation of the sprawling Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill, as well as the exploitation of several mineral deposits in numerous states across the country. Current holders of mining licenses were also warned that they would forfeit such licences from the month of March, 2016 if they failed to utilise them, as the Ministry would enforce what it calls “the use it or lose it” doctrine, as enshrined in the 2007 Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act.
Indeed, a relentless political will and genuine commitment to exploit the solid minerals sector will ensure that Nigeria’s economy is divested from oil as the main foreign exchange earner.
Sectors such as agriculture, science and technology, entertainment and the arts are bracing to effectively take their place as major revenue earners for the country. It is no wonder therefore, that the Nigerian economy continues to hold so much promise of sustainability, growth and development.