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Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office and challenge of revenue drive

By Onu Okorie

The realisation that the wealth and prosperity of a nation is not dependent on its endowment with abundant natural resources but on prudent and transparent resource management practices so that resource blessing would not turn resource curse informed the establishment of mining Cadastre among nations. The Federal Government of Nigeria in pursuit of its mining sector reform programme, implemented by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) in collaboration with the World Bank Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project, set up the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office (NMCO).

The NMCO, which became an autonomous agency of government, as provided by section 5(1) of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, (2007), is responsible for the management and administration of mineral titles, considered to be the cornerstone of a secure mineral rights system that would guarantee revenue generation and accountability for economic growth and development.

After decades of neglect, there are noticeable evidences that things are again looking up in the Nigerian solid minerals sector courtesy of the reform policies and programmes of the federal government being implemented at all levels in the sector, especially at the NMCO, with the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development providing the necessary oversight and support.

Coming on board seven years ago, the current President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration announced a robust economic reform to diversify the economy, which had remained oil-based to the detriment of other equally resourceful sectors, and the two key productive sectors of agriculture and solid minerals were put in focus. And as the reforms began to advance, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, causing untold set-back to plans and programmes around the world, Nigeria inclusive.

Yet it appeared the ugly development has not deterred managers of the NMCO from focusing on sanitising and repositioning the sector to international standards going by its unprecedented performance in terms of revenue Drive, especially in the last couple of years.

With the foregoing, coupled with budgetary constraints and other challenges at the headquarters and the newly created zonal offices, NMCO under its Director-General (DG), Engr Simon Obadiah Nkom, has disclosed that as at the end of 2021, its revenue generation hit a record of N9.384 billion within a period of three years.

The DG who disclosed this during a round table media chat with newsmen in Abuja said in 2019, N2.580 billion was generated for the federation account, the second highest since NMCO’s inception in 2007, while for 2020, which was the peak period of the pandemic, NMCO was still able to generate N2.303 billion, despite the lockdown, and as at December 31, 2021, the revenue generated for the year stood at N4.3 billion, which was the highest revenue ever generated by the office.

But that is not all. The success of the mining sector of any nation is determined by the level of the presence of well-known junior and major International Mining companies. With the implementation of the reform programmes being meticulously carried out by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) under the able leadership of the Minister, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite and the Minister of State, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah in according with the roadmap earlier developed, Nigeria has witnessed the entry of a number of mining companies especially from Australia, Canada, the UK, China, Japan, South Africa etc. exploring for various metallic minerals and precious metals. Part of the unprecedented attraction is the internal reforms carried out, and still ongoing, at the Mining Cadastre Office, including the automation of its activities and online database programme, have raised the system to the international stage, thus boosting the confidence of investors.

Engr Nkom, whose outstanding commitment to professionalism has earned him the position of President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) since 2019, explained that the right to search for or exploit any mineral in Nigeria is governed by different mineral titles.

“The right to explore or exploit minerals in Nigeria is evidenced by the grant of a mineral title which can be granted to an eligible applicant under the Act in accordance with the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulations (NMMR) and after the submission of an irrevocable consent form by land owners or occupiers,” he said.

He listed the titles obtainable in the country to include the Reconnaissance Permit (RP), Exploration Licence (EL), Small Scale Mining Lease (SSML), Mining Lease (ML), Quarry Lease (QL) and the Water Use Permit (WUP).

Nkom observed that as at March 2022 7,233 valid titles are active, adding that since inception 15,483 applications have been refused while 4,997 revoked.

Speaking further, the DG said, “There were major strategies the agency works with that have really increased revenue generation for government.

I came in with a vision and I had my strategy, and that is to be able to improve and be more transparent and to be able to now ensure that we work with relevant agencies; even now we are working closely with NEITI.

“How did we make more money in 2019? We told operators who owe us money but came to us for services that they would get services only after they had gone to purge themselves and come back with zero-debt. We stopped giving services to those owing us.

“And that has been our major strategy to make our revenue go up. We also ensure enforcement of the Minerals and Mining Act 2007.”

He equally spoke about the “Use it or Lose it’ strategy being implemented to ensure all licences are operational, and those not being used are revoked in accordance with the law.

The NMCO boss also noted that another good side of the internal reforms being implemented at NMCO is the creation of additional jobs. According to him, at least 38 staffs were employed in the upgrade of the SIGTIM software to the web-base Online Mineral Title Administration and Management system – eMC+Activation and Integration of e-Recording and Archiving of Mineral Title documents alone.

This unfolding development is key to resuscitating the Nigerian mining sector and returning it to the path of glory towards national prosperity, but one thing remains and that is sustenance. A solid arrangement needs be made to ensure that these achievements are not only sustained but improved upon so that the sector does not go back to the Egypt it is coming from.

And if the optimism expressed by Engr Nkom is anything to go by, then a lot more is expected to happen within NMCO and the sector in general in this 2022 and beyond.

He stated that the concern of the NMCO in 2022 and beyond is to consolidate on the gains so far while upholding transparency, security of tenure, and non-subjectivity so as to attract the needed investments in the sector.

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