Recently, the federal government seized about N1.12 billion worth of gold, which was about to be smuggled to Dubai. This event ferret a syndicate of smugglers, thereby, creating a refocused attention on unlicensed operators in Nigeria’s mining industry. Once more, we get to see the façade of a country that refuses to invest in its mineral resources to diversify revenue sources and create jobs.
Despite the sudden drop in oil and gas revenue since mid-2014, recession and borrowing, the federal government has not realized that it is wise to diversify the economy. The country has a good number of mineral resources which are worth investing to save the nation.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission reported that the attempted smuggling was arranged by a syndicate of illegal miners in Zamfara. Zamfara is rich in gold. The former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, lamented in 2017 that the country lost about $9 billion in two years due to illegal mining. It is so obvious that the government is helpless regarding these resources, instead of developing the industry to provide formal jobs, advance industrialization and technology advancement.
According to the International Labour Organization, mining is “the backbone of most industries”. And a study by a Geology Professor, Olugbenga Okunlola, identified local industries that would benefit from domestic mining to include steel, ceramics, glass, construction, cement and agro-fertilizers.
Meanwhile, some experts say gold could earn the country an extra $1 billion annually. The National Bureau of Statistics data shows that Zamfara generated N6.02 billion in 2017, the seventh lowest among the 36 states.
The country has got to not only depend on oil for 80 per cent of its export. Minerals are deficient in exportation. Minerals are very essential to a country’s economy. In some countries where there are minerals in galore, they are major earners. Mining is recognized as the driving force behind industrialization in South Africa whereby 89 per cent of the nation’s electricity is powered by coal. In Nigeria, apart from the popular Enugu mines, coal deposits are said to be in galore in five other states, while we still rely on hydro for the 5,000 MW we produce.
Wise investments in minerals can provide a way out of empty treasuries, unpaid salaries and pensions.