01 December 2013, Lagos – The transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration has been equivocal in its determination to liberate Nigeria from the shackles of the nation’s mono-economic dependence on the oil sector. It is to this end that the Jonathan administration has embarked on revitalising the solid mineral sector.
Nigeria is blessed with rich mineral resources. It is on record that almost all the thirty-six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory have one or more mineral deposits in stock. Unfortunately these mineral deposits, which can sustain some countries in the world, are yet to be maximally harnessed in Nigeria until in the recent time.
It is against this backdrop that the Jonathan administration’s efforts in making the mineral sector work have been appreciated by micro-economic development observers in Nigeria. It is also crystal clear that the development of the solid mineral sector in Nigeria can only be achieved when specialized institutions in the nation’s micro and macro-economic sector play their roles maximally.
Nexim Bank, one of such institutions, has taken the bull by the horns by spearheading the development of the solid mineral sector in Nigeria. Like President Goodluck Jonathan rightly observed, the mineral sector together with manufacturing, agro-processing and services (tourism and entertainment) are the constituents of Nigeria’s ‘Mass Agenda’ conceptualized to intervene, and thereby drive growth in the non-oil sectors of Nigeria’s economy.
The managing director/chief executive of Nexim Bank, Mr Roberts Orya, has not minced his words in making the impacts of Nexim Bank open in the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to him, “Nexim Bank’s intervention in the solid mineral sector is structured as is the case with other three sectors of focus. We combine funding with capacity-building. We engage stakeholders to identify obstacles to the growth of the solid mineral sector. And we look at efficient ways to remove the barriers.”
The development of Nigeria’s solid mineral sector is a global challenge. It involves not only making the sector merely open for investors but providing the atmosphere for such operations to be conducive and encouraged. This Nexim Bank has come to fill the gap in conjunction with other stakeholders.
In the words of Roberts Orya, “Once we have the initial local private investment in place, with government approval, I am pretty confident that foreign capital will follow. Like the oil and gas sector, we can attract global companies to come here (Nigeria) and invest in the solid mineral sector.”
The intervention of Nexim Bank as well as other specialized institutions has been enhanced following the passage of the Minerals and Mining Act 1999 which has provided a robust legislative framework for the sector.
On a general note, the solid mineral sector of Nigeria has a great prospect for many reasons. The recent roadmap by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is encouraging. Apart from the roadmap, Roberts Orya is of the opinion that other measures already adopted in the sector will revamp the mineral sector.
Echoing him, “Improved geological information, favourable policy framework for local and international investors, the new national solid minerals policy, availability of low mining technology and recovery from the slump in the prices of metals in the global market will ensure the Nigerian mining industry revamps.”
At the last count, the Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development (Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, with a wider mandate) has confirmed that Nigeria is blessed with thirty-four solid minerals currently being promoted for investment. The identified minerals are capable of playing a key role in Nigeria’s housing, infrastructure, and construction industry. They include coal, iron ore, limestone, granite, marble, bitumen, gypsum, talc, lead/zinc, gold, kaolin, copper, soda-ash, rock salt, uranium, limestone, uranium, tin, asbestos, columbite, to mention a few.
One huge benefit of the Roberts Orya-led Nexim Bank in contributing maximally to the development of the solid mineral sector is the sector’s multiplier effect in job creation for the teeming youths of Nigeria. From available records, the number of Nigerian youths unemployed outweighs those employed. The imbalance has also led to the economic retrogression of Nigeria as a lot of manpower is constantly being wasted due to under-utilisation of the nation’s human potentialities. Thus the intervention of Nexim Bank in diversifying the solid mineral sector is a welcome development because it is a singular act that will make the fortunes of Nigeria not the same again.
The recent assertion of Orya that Nexim Bank has resolved to create and sustain 15, 000 jobs in the non-oil sector has been heart-rending. The chief executive has therefore assured that Nexim Bank will make this laudable goal realizable through the provision of finance and enhance industrial capacity as well as support the acquisition and adoption of new and clean technologies, thereby ensuring competitiveness of Nigerian products and manufacturing operations.
In his words, “The bank’s funding intervention in support of exports has created and sustained 60, 000 jobs in the past few years: 2009 – 25000 jobs, 2011 – 35, 000 jobs. The bank support has attracted foreign generation of about 100 million dollars annually, making a total of 200 million in the past years.” The determination of Nexim Bank to generate multitude of jobs in Nigeria is premised on huge intervention in the sectors with higher investment potentialities such as mining, agriculture, tourism, and creative arts.
Economic analysts are of the opinion that if Nexim Bank sincerely delves into the solid mineral sector as well as other non-oil sectors, Nigeria will mark a sporadic economic turnaround. Records also indicate that the bank is not new in this sector because it has supported the Nigerian non-oil export to the tune of N20 billion naira.
Orya said, “As regard the intervention in the next five years, our strategic plan is to support the non-oil sector to the following minimum level: 2011, N37 billion; N2012, N41 billion; 2013, N50 billion; 2014, N63 billion; and 2015, N94 billion.”
As the nation’s solid mineral sector is being revamped with such supports from Nexim Bank, it is necessary to recall the journey of Nigeria to the solid mineral sector so far. Before the discovery of oil, Nigeria’s solid mineral sector was being harnessed orderly. The sector was then majorly in the hands of the foreigners. The Jos tin ore, Enugu coal mining among others readily come to mind. However the discovery of oil in commercial quantities later killed the advancement already recorded in the solid mineral sector.
So far the Jonathan administration has shown that the non-oil sector of the economy remains the only option for the nation’s economic development. And for the anticipated development in the solid mineral sector to be feasible, certain measures must be put in place. It is in these areas that Nexim Bank can be seen as having the wherewithal to propel the nation to the next level. There is need to have an intervention fund. This is essential as foreign investors will surely understudy the operational status of local players before such investors bring in their resources. Some of them will also prefer to partner with local investors instead of starting all over again. And for the local operators to move forward, there must be some specialised funding to help them acquire basic equipment and operate mechanically. Funds are also required to construct roads to mining sites and provide other basic infrastructure such as power and water.
It is on this basis that the recent statement of the boss of Nexim Bank, Mr Roberts Orya, that although the solid mineral sector is capital intensive, but the bank has identified with it because the sector is strategic in the nation’s economy.
Hear him, “In the area of solid mineral sector, we are working in partnership with the industry’s stakeholders to take formal mining off the ground again. Although mining is capital intensive, the Nigerian solid mineral sector needs more than funding. The legal and regulatory frameworks in Nigeria are works in progress. Nexim Bank has so far provided 2 billion naira in early funding to help some commercial miners to develop their sites in order to start operations and invite further funding from other sources apart from the long-term commitment of Nexim Bank to the nascent industry.”
– Sylvester Aroh – Aroh is the Northern Regional Editor of a Lagos based Research Intelligence Magazine.