By Palma Ileye
Senate committees on Appropriations and Solid Minerals on Wednesday affirmed the imperative of increasing budgetary allocations to the solid minerals development ministry to enable the mining sector lead the way in diversifying the nation’s economy.
According to a press release issued yesterday by Segun Tomori, Special Assistant on Media to the Honourable Minister of Solid Minerals Development, while addressing the Senate committee on Solid minerals during a budget defence session, the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake reeled out his achievements over the past three months, stating that a solid foundation has been laid for the development of solid minerals under his stewardship.
Alake emphasised, “Solid minerals is the next petroleum of Nigeria, but for us to critically, efficiently, and proficiently harness this resources and convert it to revenue and increase our GDP, we must lay certain ground rules. We must put in place some enduring infrastructure. To tackle illegal mining and other sharp practices, we must put in place a pre-emptive strategy that will reduce the proclivity to commit such vices. That’s what my team and I decided to do when I came in through a 7-point agenda, which I announced to the world and is contained in the document I passed to you.”
Speaking further, the Minister asserted that the first step he undertook was to generate attention for the mining sector within the country and in the international community, which he noted has yielded tremendous fruits as international investors have shown enthusiasm to invest in the sector, with Lithium topping the list of minerals, whose value chain has attracted the most attention.
He asserted, “My team and I recently had a meeting with the British Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden in Downing Street, on the sidelines of the Mines and Money Conference, based on some of the activities that we have been able to put in place in the last three months and he expressed his interest in our Lithium, promising to mobilise a consortium of british investors to invest in the value chain. He moved a step further to invite President Bola Tinubu for a parley to consolidate the process.”
Having shifted global interest to Nigeria’s solid minerals, Alake stressed that the next most crucial step is the generation of the necessary geoscientific data. This, he noted, is essential to guide investors in making informed decisions or projections on available mineral resources.
“For instance, previous work in the geo-data section has shown that we have about 44 minerals that are in demand, globally. However, we do not have data that will tell us the quantum of what we have across the country. What the investors or operators are doing now are partly speculative, and no big player will come into our sector, based on speculation. All of these are contingent on the geo-scientific data we can generate, and these things don’t come cheap. We don’t have equipment locally, we don’t have certain technical personnel. This means that we rely on international assistance. This means distinguished senators that we need your assistance in terms of budgetary allocations,” the Minister added.
In his response, Chairman of Senate Committee on Solid minerals, Sen. Ekong Samson lauded Dr. Alake for his presentation, assuring him of the support of the committee in ensuring solid minerals achieve its potential to become the next petroleum of the country. He frowned at the paltry budgetary proposals of the ministry, emphasising it is grossly inadequate to make the requisite impact of making the mining sector contribute immensely to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, pledging the committee will make a case for increased allocations.
At the Senate appropriations committee, the Chairman, Sen. Olamilekan Yayi also commended the Minister for his giant strides so far, corroborating the position of the solid minerals committee that budgetary allocations should be scaled up, to enable the Ministry generate at least N50bn revenue for 2024, as against the proposed N12bn.
The Senators were unanimous in their resolve to support the reforms of the Minister and ensure he has all he needs to make the mining sector a major revenue earner for the country.