Mr Emmanuel Omijeh is the Chief Executive Officer, Gembu Mining Development Company Limited, an organisation wholly indigenous to Nigeria.
In this exclusive interview, the industrialist discusses the secrets of its major breakthrough in mining finance, stating that it has attracted $500m commitment from foreign partners to execute its mining interests in Nigeria. This development is a jinx-breaking departure from the legacy challenge of funding that underdeveloped mining endeavors in the country.
He encouraged private sector operators in Nigeria to also seek project financing from international lending houses, stating that operators must develop the kind of framework needed to attract funds from international financiers, adding that adherence to global best-practices is necessary to win the confidence of lenders.
Omijeh, who had served in the Foreign Service commended Arc Olamilekan Adegbite-led Management of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for efforts to diversify the economy, and strongly advised the government to fully pursue the realization of a private sector-driven economy in the mining sector.
He also discussed other issues with Francis Kadiri, in Abuja, on Friday.
Tell us about Gembu Mining Development Company.
The Company is incorporated in Nigeria and licensed as a Buying Centre for precious and non-precious metals and precious stones and gemstones with an Export License from the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC).
We have a working memorandum of understanding (MoU) with foreign partners to buy minerals and establish mining industries.
Besides, we desire to facilitate access to modern technology and skills to scale-up the technological capacity and skills development of artisanal and small-scale mining enterprises which is characterized by crude and environmentally hazardous and small-scale low profit operations.
Gembu is also seeking public-private partnership with states that are rich in specific minerals deposits to unlock their mining potential for the sector to make its contribution to inclusive growth and development.
What are your minerals of interest?
We are particularly interested in precious metals, non-precious metals and gemstones. We get demand globally, and then source for them locally. So, it is also correct to say that we are interested in every mineral resource in Nigeria that occurs in huge commercial quantity.
We have international partners and the funding needed to harness the minerals in the country toward creating wealth and jobs, while paying tax that will mean well to government as a source of resource diversification.
Mining business is capital intensive. How are you overcoming the challenge?
Funding is not a problem for Gembu Mining Development Company; rather, policy summersault in Nigeria may be the problem. All over the world, mining industry players need to develop the kind of framework that will attract funds from international financiers.
If they meet the conditions and demands of global best practices, they will get the funds. The funds are available globally, Nigerian businessmen, like other businessmen only need to meet the requirement. Once you satisfy the requirement, you will be able to access the funds.
So, we don’t have problem with funding because we are working with partners in line with global best practices. This is one of the areas where the NGSA comes in, because they have given us enough data that can be verified empirically. So, we will make these facts available to relevant organizations who will give counterpart funding for project execution.
As we speak, we have secured counterpart funding support of five hundred million Dollars into what Gembu is doing, and I am sure such global funds will be available if we continue to prove our worth by which we will sustain the confidence of the financiers.
Considering the increase in the resource base of various solid minerals in Nigeria, I believe we will be able to meet the targets.
What is your advice to those who think that funding is a problem?
They should find out the best internationally recognized fund providers for mining sector projects, and then they should meet the requirements and work in line with global best practices.
What is the long and short-term goal of Gembu Mining Company?
Our long-term goal is to be the leading mining company in the country. Our short-term goal is to optimize our potential, create value for the minerals we have, and expose local artisanal miners to better and safer mining methods. We also want to help host communities develop because we have strong value for the wellbeing of host communities.
As part of the corporate values of Gembu Mining Company, we consider host communities as ourpartners in progress. This is because we don’t just want to take away their mineral wealth; we also want them to benefit from it.
This means we want to be part of the biggest wealth creating companies in the country, while bringing development to the sector through new technologies. In this regard, we have collaborated with the NGSA, and we will do the needful to work with other relevant stakeholders to position Nigeria as a global mining destination. Nigeria is known for oil and gas, but not yet known as a mining destination.
We are very optimistic about increasing the success stories of Nigerian mining sector. This will lead to multifaceted investments and yields.
Would you say that indigenous mining companies in Nigeria have standard project designs that can attract international financing?
Well, I can’t speak for other mining companies yet, I can only speak about Gembu Mining Development Company.
There is a curve which every mining company is trying to navigate in Nigeria, and we will get there. In the past, mining was a booming practice in Nigeria. I think it is gradually being reinvigorated.
As a member of the Miners Association of Nigeria, we are all working to do well. We have recently said that government should improve the enabling environment, and give the much-needed support to miners.
Your company was among the first set of companies that participated in the NGSA Special Session, recently. What is the take-home from that interaction?
If you listened to the presentation, you will agree that progress is being made. You will also agree that the leadership of theNigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) is doing a fantastic job in a professional and sustainable way.
For many reasons, we are proud of the NGSA. We are proud, not necessarily because it is an agency of the Federal Government, but because by its efforts and mineral discoveries, the NGSA is doing what the country needs to do to join the rank of leading mining nations.
Let me tell you this: I was a member of the diplomatic community, and I know what it means to make the kind of progress that will determine the decisions of investing public, especially investors from the international community.
So, I am happy that such progress is being made by my own home country, Nigeria. The agency has a solid leadership potential and they have a team spirit, and they are able to realize set goals because the team is working together to realize set goals of generating reliable geosciences data needed by investors. I believe this is what Nigeria needs.
The ongoing increase in the geological data base of solid minerals is an effort that proves the commitment of the NGSA to repositioning Nigerian mining sector in Africa. Look at how they have been able to inculcate science into mining practice, look at how the agency is embracing modernization and technology! It is amazing.
The ability to put scientific knowledge into mineral surveys and discovery is the best thing that can propel Africa’s solid mineral development.
Now, in answering your question, I would say the NGSA is setting a standard, and we are keying into it. We will be able to empirically verify and validate the quality and quantity of solid minerals in Nigeria. This is made possible by the geosciences data and information being made available by the NGSA.
As a diplomat, you watched policy responses of nations to economic challenges. What should Nigeria do in mining to holistically address impact of COVID-19 on the economy?
Globally, the government is in place for the people. This means that government policies must have human face. We need to start making the people look good, because the government is for the people. It should empower the people, and empower the private sector. It should give the people enough power and knowledge like the NGSA and Mining Cadastre Office(MCO) are doing with accessibility to information.
Not only in the mining sector, agencies in Nigeria needed to modernize their ways of reaching out to the public. They should reach-out to communities, set up community-based organizations to harness what they have and enable them to pay taxes. Until when this is not done, foreign miners in the country will continue to take the best part of the minerals because they are the ones who enjoy support from their home governments.
Asians, Chinese are here and they are taking our minerals because they have the technology to do so. Nigeria needs to support indigenous miners so that they too can favorably compete with foreign operators.
Some countries were able to evolve from agrarian to industrial because of citizen support they got. We can do same for Nigeria.