In this interview, COREN-Registered Engineer and World Bank Consultant who is the Managing Director of Geocardinal Engineering Services, Engr Adeyemo Titilope advices the incoming Minister of Mines and Steel Development to sustain government’s commitment to the implementation of the ‘Roadmap for Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Sector,’ adding that sustained implementation of the policy will fully unlock the potentials of the sector to diversify the economy.
He spoke with Francis Kadiri.
To what extent would the mining sector diversify the economy? I.e., would the mining sector topple oil, or would it complement oil as Nigeria’s revenue earner?
If the problem of capacity shortage is solved, the mining sector will not only favorably compete with the oil and gas sector, it will surpass oil as Nigeria’s major revenue earner. This is sure because when capacity is boosted and strengthened, revenue generation will increase, revenue leakages will be blocked, while capital flight will be brought to an end, and the sector can contribute 30% or more of Nigeria’s GDP.
Kindly shed more light on the problem and how it could challenge efforts to diversify the economy.
There is no doubt that Nigeria is abundantly blessed with various solid mineral resources, but the solid minerals sector lacks the capacity needed to exploit the mineral wealth. The lack of capacity adversely affects various aspects of the sector. Some staff who work in mining sector offices do not have the knowledge needed to efficiently execute their tasks. As a result, their office is not able to fully deliver on its mandate.
On this basis, I wish to strongly advice the government to embark on large-scale development of capacity in the mining sector. Until this is done, the mineral wealth of Nigeria may not be maximally tapped. Until we build capacity of people in the sector, investors may not be able to harvest the desired yield on investments. There is serious need to build capacity in the sector.
Let me tell you this: Competent personnel had to be imported into the country to deliver aspects of the ongoing Sokoto Phosphate Project. If Nigeria had such competent experts, it would have saved the country capital flight and a lot more. However, the experts had to come because their renowned expertise will give the needed credibility to the exploration project.
So, the quest for capacity development in the mining sector is a reality that I am sure government must attend to because of its sincerity.
How has the problem affected operators?
The lack of capacity is the reason why indigenous mining companies have not been able to achieve the successes scored by their foreign counterparts operating in Nigeria, even when the local companies work very hard.
As a consultant to the World Bank, we have travelled around the country and beyond, and we are sure that it will be difficult for indigenous companies to thrive unless they build their capacity.
I have supervised a lot of mining facilities and outfits and we discovered that only very minute percentage of indigenous companies have some sort of capacity necessary to thrive in the mining sector, the larger number of indigenous operators lack the requisite capacity to thrive.
The only mining companies thriving in Nigeria are owned by Chinese, Lebanese, Indians or some other foreign nationals, hardly Nigerian companies.
Although I don’t know who would be appointed the next Minister of Mines and Steel Development, but ahead of the appointment, I wish to advice government to seriously consider addressing the need for capacity development in the mining sector.
The incoming minister should understand that unless government puts in place strategies to develop the capacity of the sector to deliver, it would be challenging to realise the economic diversification agenda via the mining sector even though the government must be commended for the various efforts it has made so far.
What is your advice to the next Minister of Mines and Steel Development who is although yet to be appointed?
He should follow the track record of his predecessor-ministers, and should ensure the completion of ongoing projects some. He should take proper brief from the various heads of departments and agencies. Uncompleted projects can retard the progress of a sector. Therefore the incoming Minister ought to follow the existing Roadmap.
What is your corporate assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari-administration, especially in the president’s first tenure?
Recently, very credible appointments were made into some mining sector agencies, and the appointments were widely commended because they all credible, some are people who rose through the ranks to the top. The new leaders are people who know the processes and strategies that the sector needs to deliver its promises to Nigerians. Credible appointments lead to credible leadership and progress. So the sector is on the road to the top.
Can you be more specific about how the appointments will positively impact the sector?
Without any sentiment, let me begin with the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) where so many new things are happening. Within a short time, the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project (NIMEP) began, and it is making enviable progress such that NGSA will now be able to present very reliable data about solid minerals in the country.
In Sokoto, there is an ongoing Phosphate Exploration Project in partnership with OCP of Morocco. The NGSA has installed earthquake detection and monitoring equipment in strategic locations across the country. Apart from upgrading the National Mineral Database, the NGSA procured two drilling rigs, an effort that reflects the sincerity of the Buhari administration to develop the mining sector and diversify the economy. It must be commended that NGSA is now able to commence the exploration of Bitumen after a long time.
In the Mining Cadastre Office (MCO), there is an ongoing overhaul of the analog system, Nigeria will join the rank of nations with digital mining cadastre system. The major implication of an online cadastre system is that it would place the sector at the door step of prospective investors while also making it easy for investors to easily interact with the licensing authority (MCO).
At the Mines Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, there is a new helmsman who is patriotic, highly experienced, well-read and professionally-certified. I can assure you, that because the best hands have been placed in strategic places, the mining sector is being ushered into an era of glory.
I read that at the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA), new methods are being devised to ensure improved services. In Ajaokuta Steel Company, government has completed infrastructure needed to operate the plants. The agencies in Jos are also breaking barriers and the sector is moving forward. Now, those at the helms of affairs in the sector are patriot and passionate about the mining sector.
These are just some of the achievements recorded during the first tenure, I am sure government will consolidate on these achievements especially if the next Minister of Mines and Steel Development will sustain the commitment of government to the implementation of the Roadmap for Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Sector.
So, it is reasonable to predict that the sector will break barriers that hindered it from for decades. The sector now has formidable leaders who have the patriotism and experience needed to break old barriers.
What would Nigeria benefit from the Phosphate project when completed?
The occurrence of phosphates in Sokoto Basin was discovered a long time ago, but no effort was made to exploit it until this administration. The phosphate project will significantly close great gaps in the fertilizer industry, and it will have a ripple effect in the agricultural sector because availability of fertilizer will boost crops yield.