The President, Miners Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Sani Shehu, has called on the new administration to provide adequate funds for the Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF) to ensure its development.
Shehu made the call on Wednesday in Abuja at the association’s news conference tagged “Mining is the answer”.
SMDF is, however, an agency under the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, mandated to fund all the mining activities across the country.
According to Shehu, for Nigeria to regain its former glory on the global mining arena, the sector must be adequately funded through SMDF, which is yet to begin operations, three years after its inauguration.
Shehu said that the mining industry had, in the past, contributed significantly to the growth of the Nigerian economy, adding that Nigeria was a major producer of tin, columbite and coal.
“The industry also provides massive employment and was one of the sources of revenue for infrastructure development before it suffered a major setback.
“For decades afterwards, small scale operators and artisanal miners took over the sector.
“It is not appropriate to leave a sector with such huge potential to be dominated by artisanal and small scale miners.
“The sector still remains virgin and needs to be properly developed to actualise its full benefits to the nation,” he said.
Shehu also urged government to continue to generate credible geosciences data, extend the local content law to the mining sector, encourage mining cooperatives into clusters and facilitate human capacity development programmes.
He urged government to adequately fund the Ministry of Steel to strengthen its relevant departments to perform their statutory functions.
He implored government to promote local manufacture of mining equipment and create the enabling environment to allow operators to access funds more easily and at single digit interest rates.
According to Shehu, Nigeria has at least 33 viable solid minerals deposits; these contribute less than one per cent to the GDP as against the erstwhile 10 per cent generated from the sector before oil.
“South Africa, which is less endowed than Nigeria in this regard, depends on solid minerals exploitation for 18 per cent of its GDP and has created over one million jobs,” the president said.
He said countries like India, Mozambique and Ghana were fairing well in mining sector, adding that it was a viable economic alternative to oil.
Shehu said the association had resolved to work with the new government to actualise its aspirations of generating additional revenue and massively creating jobs for the citizens.
He said the association had developed a five-year Strategic Development Plan for the mining sector which would create 300,000 jobs annually as well as contribute 10 per cent to the GDP.
“The solid minerals industry is witnessing a renaissance and its relevance to Nigerian economy can no longer be downplayed, especially at a time when critical, diverse investments are needed to enhance the economic empowerment of our people.
“The vast occurrences of solid mineral resources in each state of the federation are yet to be accorded due attention; collective and affirmative action is desired in order to fully exploit the enormous prospects that exist.”
He said the union recognised measures were taken by the former administration to reform the mining industry by creating institutions which provided a platform for the sector in line with industrial best practices.
He said even with the reform, the sector still had challenges of inadequate skilled labour, inadequate geological and bankable data, multiple taxation as well as inadequate logistical support among others.
He commended the appointment of Mr Roberts Orya, the Managing Director, Nigerian Export-Import Bank, as the Honorary President of the Global Network of Export-Import Banks and Development Finance Institutions.
He condoled with the families of the victims of the recent lead poison in Niger and prayed God to grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.
Lawmakers Want CBN To Halt Naira Devaluation
The House of Representatives has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to urgently put in place a policy to check further devaluation of the naira to the United States dollar and other international legal tenders.
The House decried that while the Nigerian currency was losing value, others in Africa were appreciating.
At the plenary on Wednesday, the House unanimously adopted a motion moved by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Pensions, Mr Bamidele Salam, which warned the CBN of the implications of further devaluing the naira.
The motion was titled, ‘Matter of urgent public importance on the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria to urgently put in place monetary policies to stop the free fall of the naira against the dollar and other international legal tenders’.
Salam recalled that the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, while addressing the Bankers’ Committee at a summit on the economy in Lagos earlier in February, informed the committee about the naira devaluation against the dollar.
The lawmaker also quoted Emefiele as saying at the summit that the official exchange rate stood at N410 to the dollar.
“That is 7.6 per cent weaker than the rate of N379 published on the central bank’s website,” Salam noted.
According to the lawmaker, while the value of the naira relative to the dollar had declined by nine per cent in the last six months, the South African rand and Ghanaian cedi had appreciated by 11.4 per cent and one per cent, respectively.
Salam also recalled that the CBN adopted multiple exchange rates in 2020, in a bid to avoid an outright devaluation.
He noted that the official rate used as a basis for budget preparation and other official transactions differed from a closely controlled exchange rate for investors and exporters known as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing Methodology.
He stressed that the naira had traded in a tight range between N400 and N410, while the NAFEX rate was different from the parallel market, considered illegal by the CBN, where the naira closed at 502.
Salam said, “The House is concerned that devaluation is likely to cause inflation because imports will be more expensive any imported goods or raw material will increase in price; aggregate demand increases, causing demand-pull inflation. Firms/exporters have less incentive to cut costs because they can rely on the devaluation to improve competitiveness.
”The concern is that the long-term devaluation may lead to lower productivity because of the decline in incentives.
”The House is further concerned that devaluation of the naira makes it more difficult for Nigerian youths especially in the IT sector, whose businesses are online and must necessarily transact businesses in the US dollars.
“It also reduces real wages. In a period of low wage growth, a devaluation that causes rising import prices will make consumers feel worse off “.
Four West African Countries To Buy Nigeria’s Unutilised Electricity
Four West African countries, Niger, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso, are collaborating to buy the unutilised power produced in Nigeria.
The Chairman of the Executive Board of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), Sule Abdulaziz, disclosed this at the WAPP meeting on the North core project in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Abdulaziz, who is also the acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), said the four countries were collaborating to make the power purchase from Nigeria through the North core Power Transmission Line currently being built.
He explained, “The power we will be selling is the power that is not needed in Nigeria.
“The electricity generators that are going to supply power to this transmission line are going to generate that power specifically for this project. So, it is unutilised power”.
He said Nigeria was expecting new generators to participate in the energy export for the 875km 330KV Northcore transmission line from Nigeria through Niger, Togo, Benin to Burkina Faso.
Abdulaziz said, “In addition, there are some communities that are under the line route, about 611 of them, which will be getting power so that there won’t be just a transmission line passing without impact”.
The WAPP chairman noted that the project, funded by World Bank, French Development Council and the African Development Bank, had recorded progress, adding that the energy ministers would be addressing security issues for the project at another meeting in Abuja.
He said, “Nigeria has the greatest advantage among these countries because the electricity is going to be exported from Nigerian Gencos (generation companies).
“So, from that, the revenue is going to be enhanced and a lot of people will be employed in Nigeria”.
The Secretary-General, WAPP, Siengui Appolinaire-Ki, said the cost of the project was about $570 million, adding that part of the investment in each country would be funded by that particular nation.
According to him, the countries in the partnership, including Nigeria, are also being supported by donors.
He said the funding agreement was ready as partner countries were awaiting the disbursements.
Appolinaire-Ki, however, said the donor agencies had said they needed a Power Purchase Agreement between the buying and the selling countries to be executed before releasing the fund.
Reps Probe N275bn Agric Loans Under Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari
The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the disbursement of loans and credit facilities by the Federal Government in the agriculture sector since 2009.
The period under review covers the administrations of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan as well as the present President, Muhammadu Buhari.
The resolution was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Chike Okafor at the plenary last Wednesday, titled ‘Need to investigate disbursements of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security’.
Okafor said, from 2009 to date, the Federal Government had approved the disbursement of funds to farmers in various schemes to the tune of over N275billion, ranging from Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, to help farmers improve agricultural production and guarantee food security in Nigeria.
The lawmaker also noted that apart from increasing food supply, the schemes were to grant agricultural loans to large and small-scale commercial farmers to lower the prices of agricultural produce, generate employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.
He said, “The House is aware that since the approval, most farmers have not been able to access the loans due to stringent requirements being demanded by banks from prospective borrowers and the alleged siphoning of over N105billion meant for farmers by management of NIRSAL.
“The House is concerned that food production has not attained the expected level, despite the approval of over N275billion facilities to farmers.
“The House is worried that the projected diversification of the economy from oil production to agricultural production and increase in agricultural output, food supply and promoting low food inflation will not be achieved if farmers are unable to access loans meant to increase agricultural production”.
Adopting the motion, the House resolved to mandate the Committee on Banking and Currency to “investigate disbursements and compliance of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security in the country”.
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