The Federal Government must formalize the operations of artisanal and small-scale miners to boost the contribution of the sector to the development of the country’s economy, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has said.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Orji Ogbonnaya Orji told members of the Executive of the Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by its President, Kabiru Muhammed, who visited him in Abuja the contribution of the solid mineral sector, which mining belongs, to the country’s gross domestic products (GDP) was abysmally poor.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says the solid minerals sector contributes less than 0.6 percent to the country’s GDP, with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo saying the Federal Government is targeting increasing the level to about 5 percent by 2025.
But Orji lamented the low revenues contribution to the country’s economy from the solid minerals sector despite the existence of abundant solid minerals resources spread across Nigeria, describing it as unacceptable.
“Findings from NEITI’s audit reports that the mining sector currently contributes less than one percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is unacceptable, considering the quantum and variety of mineral resources spread across Nigeria,” Orji said.
“We are aware that the sector is dominated by artisanal and small-scale miners. That is why NEITI has advised the government through several recommendations contained in our reports to devise means to urgently formalize operations of this category of miners to enable them to contribute significantly to the development of the sector and the economy,” Orji added.
He said although he was aware the process of formalizing the operations of artisanal and small-scale miners has commenced by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, the Executive Secretary stressed the need to hasten up and conclude on it to yield the desired benefits
He described the activities of illegal minerals buying centres across the country as a major channel of revenue leakage to the government, which he noted was worrisome to NEITI.
Pledging to work with the Association and other key stakeholders in the sector to make the solid minerals sector work better by sharing information and data to ensure all the leakages were plugged.
One major area of interest to NEITI, he said, was to explore all possible avenues, including partnerships and collaborations with various organizations like MAN to improve government revenues from the solid minerals sector.
On tracking of revenue meant for the development of the solid minerals sector, Orji assured his visitors that NEITI would pay more attention to the issues.
“We are going to track either local or foreign funds meant for the development of the mining sector. We are also going to advocate for equitable and judicious application of such funds,” he said.
NEITI, he said, would look into the inflows and the management of the solid mineral development fund, to ensure it was accessible, useful and timely available to the end-users.
The NEITI boss described the visit of the Association as timely, considering insinuations by some stakeholders that over the years NEITI’s operations has been skewed in favour of the oil and gas sector.
He informed his visitors that his agency intervention in the sector began with a comprehensive scoping study, to identify the locations of the solid mineral deposits across the country.
“So far, we have conducted and published a total of ten cycles of audits covering the period 2007 to 2019 in the solid minerals sector. Our audits essentially tracked and reconciled revenue payments by companies to government, ensuring that companies pay what they ought to pay and the government received what it ought to receive”, he noted.
Earlier, the President of MAN, Kabir Muhammed said NEITI and MAN have come a long way as natural partners, with common interests in the growth and development of Nigeria’s mining sector.
He commended NEITI for its work in deepening transparency and accountability in the sector and requested the agency to track all funds meant for the development of the mining sector, including periodic audits and performance of such funds and involvement of MAN in the program and activities of the agency.