The search for foreign investors to devlop the nation’s solid minerals sector by successive regimes in the country may not be the much sought after solution to the many challenges plaguing the sector, Ruth Tene Natsa writes.
The Nigerian solid minerals boomed in the 70s with the support of world-class mining companies investing and mining in Nigeria.
Government take over of those world-class mining companies, the indigenisation policy of the 70s, privatisation of the Nigerian Mining Company(NMC) among several other issues led to the collapse of the sector,which till date remains a figment of what the sector use to be.
Today several calls and efforts with government running helter skelter searching for foreign investors to come and rebuild the sector continues to remain a hope yet to come to reality.
Interestingly there are a few foreign companies flourishing particularly in quarry mining,particularly,the Chinese, Indians, Canadians just to name a few,but they come in funded by their governments and financial communities in their countries.
The foreign investors are scared of coming because they would not invest in a country where insurgency has become an every day issue.
There is also the question of who would come to a country where states,local governments and communities are at logger heads over who owns mining rights,even when they know that mining is on the exclusive list of the federal government.
Nobody again wants to invest in a country where miners are taxed heavily by government at all levels or invest in a country where illegal miners now excused as informal miners are holding sway.
Sadly our local investors and professional miners have been left in the background with little or no access to funding from both the government or even the development banks.
Recently the Bank of Industry (BoI) alleged that it had provided N24.6billion naira loans to support miners, but that claim raised a lot of questions as miners demanded to know who the beneficiaries of those loans where.
Whether Nigeria likes it or not,attracting the foreign investors would continue to be a dream in the pipeline until local investors are empowered and the mining environment is organised to not only meet international standards but to also guarantee the security of their investments.
In the words of the president, Miners Association of Nigeria(MAN), Alhaji Sani Shehu,attracting foreign investors is one of the solutions to the development challenges in mining, but the investors should not just be allowed to come to Nigeria like that without creating conditions that would also benefit the nation’s mining community.
While duly commending the efforts of government in creating mining rules and regulations that meet world standards.
“But for me emphasis should be on local investors,we have sufficient and able investors who need to be encouraged, Dangote recently committed N5billion in the sector,” he said.
The miners’ president urged the new dispensation and development banks to support local investors/local players.
He maintained that security across the nation and mining communities would go a long way to attracting investment.
“The attitude of local communities must be changed and the present administration must muscle the courage to sensitise the mining communities to understand their rights but most particularly, their limits in mining,” he added.
Shehu therefore urged the federal government to spearhead the sensitisation as part of its responsibilities.
He noted that many communities were operating out of ignorance and since the responsibility falls on the federal government,it becomes an urgent matter for the new dispensation to take up this challenge of educating the masses.
With the above challenges, there is no doubt that if government has the political will,it can focus on the local investors and ensure they are empowered and supported to develop the sector.
The funding of the Solid Minerals Development Fund(SDMF), creating other viable funds including accessing loans from the World Bank and other International communities with very strict monitoring and ensuring accountability would go a long way to salvaging the sector using local investors.