Gov Sule evolving new roadmap for solid minerals sector in Nasarawa —– Ali Abare

Former APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State
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Since its creation in 1996, Nasarawa State has been known as the home of solid minerals. Though the state is blessed with tremendous potentials in the area of solid minerals, with known commercial deposits of several viable solid minerals which include barite, lead, gold, lithium, marble and cooking coal, amongst others, Nasarawa State is yet to realize its full potentials as a leading solid minerals destination.

Though the Nigeria Minerals and Mining Act 2007 gives ownership of all mineral resources in Nigeria and in the exclusive economic zone to the Federal Government, the administration of His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, has continued to canvass for more participation by sub nationals such as Nasarawa State, in the effort to ensure the state maximally benefits from its God given potentials.

Ali Abare, Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Nasarawa State.
Ali Abare, Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Nasarawa State.

In this regards, Governor Sule has relentlessly brought his vast experience from the organized private sector to bear, having worked for companies from across the globe and to embark on a holistic transformation of the previously dormant solid minerals sector.

His first assignment on assuming the saddle of power, was to engage in serious and earnest activism, seeking for the liberalization of the mining sector towards seeking more participation by states.

It’s on record that Engineer Sule, at every available forum, tried to make case for states to be given specific responsibility in the management of the mining sector. During the 2020 Nigeria Mining Week, the Governor raised issues before the Minister for Mines and Steel Development. At the National Executive Council (NEC) meetings, Engineer Sule doggedly pursuit the matter.

Shortly after coming into power on May 29, 2019, Governor Sule constituted the Committee on Solid Minerals Development, chaired by the Emir of Azara, HRH Dr. Kabiru Musa Ibrahim, saddled with the responsibility of reviewing activities of both formal and informal miners in the state, as well as proffer suggestions on the way forward, among other terms of reference.

While presenting its report, the committee made certain profound revelations that has continued to guide and point the way for the Engineer Sule administration in its efforts to reposition the solid minerals sector in the state.

For instance, the committee discovered that 338 mining titles were issued in Nasarawa State, out of which only 64 are active, that out of the 64 active licenses, only 35 have organized community development agreements, 10 have environmental impact assessment, while only 17 companies are paying royalties, which explains why the state is the least on the 13 percent derivation from the Minerals Development Fund.

Part of the recommendations by the committee include revisiting the law domesticating mining in the state, organizing a stakeholders’ forum, with a view to bringing both the formal and informal miners together, as well as setting up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to handle mining activities on behalf of the state.

Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura and Governor Abdullahi Sule
Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura and Governor Abdullahi Sule

According to Hon. Kwanta Yakubu, Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, with Nasarawa State blessed with the three known geological formations, leading to the availability of abundant mineral deposits, the Engineer Sule administration has taken the bull by the horns to develop the sector as a major revenue earner and employer of labour.

These, the administration has achieved through numerous high-level engagements, policies and programmes as lucidly encapsulated in the administration’s development blueprint, the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS.)

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Hon Kwanta, while highlighting the achievements of his principal, added that the discovery of gold deposit in Karu Local Government Area two years ago, has earned the state the presidential order that includes Nasarawa State among the six states to benefit from the second pilot phase of the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI).

Through this initiative, Nasarawa State is expected to enjoy institutional support to provide technical assistance to artisanal miners in gold, which is no doubt, a great achievement for job and wealth creation for the state and its people.

Also, arrangements have reached appreciable level for the establishment of a world class minerals laboratory in the state to assess mineral values for value chain addition, with the Governor, in his characteristics engagement with mining investors, been able to convince the establishment of mineral processing industries in the state.

In this regard, the Engineer Sule administration recorded a giant leap in the solid minerals sector by working hard to ensure that, instead of the available minerals being ferried out to other parts of the country to be processed, with the state being shortchanged in terms of revenue generation, value chain addition is achieved by attracting investors into the state.

Premium Marble and Granite Factory, one of the private investors that answered to the call of the Governor, with heavily mechanized sites in Akwanga and Kokona Local Government Areas, presently mine, process and ship marble and granites for both domestic use and export, with Nasarawa State now producing 30 percent of marble in the country.

As part of the revolution taking place in the sector, Hon Kwanta disclosed that a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), is being set up to harness the state position in the mining of mineral deposits for economic development.

Most significantly, Engineer Sule recently signed the Executive Order 2, 2022, geared towards improving security, ensure the restoration and reparation of the integrity of degraded land and environment as a result of mining activities and payment of mining and related revenues.

Representing the Governor at the first ever Solid Minerals Resources Trade Fair/Seminar, tagged mini-expo 2023, in Abuja, the commissioner said the event provided the opportunity to showcase the potentials of developing Nasarawa State in the field of solid minerals, especially that the state is known as the Home of Solid Minerals.

The event was organized by the Nigeria-Israeli chamber of commerce, industry and agriculture, with the theme, “The Role of the Organized Private Sector in Achieving Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth and Development Through Solid Minerals.”

While acknowledging that, under the Engineer Sule administration, the state is breaking new grounds in all areas of development with greater emphasis on private sector participation, Hon, Kwanta however used the opportunity of the fair to touch on key constraints limiting the full actualization of the state’s potentials in solid minerals.

Some of the challenges outlined by the commissioner include, the capital-intensive nature of mining activities and its long gestation period, prevalence of informal and illegal activities by artisanal miners, lack of trained manpower with technical skills, access to finance for exploration and junior mining activities and absence of adequate infrastructure such as power that promotes location of minerals industries in the state, amongst others.

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With the recent discovery of swathe of hydrocarbon deposits in Keana, with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) billed to commence drilling the first oil well next month, amidst these challenges in the face of great opportunities available to the state in the mineral sector, Hon Kwanta was optimistic that the State Government is committed to increase its stake in the mining sector by setting up a private-sector-driven Nasarawa Mining Investment Company to invest directly in extracting, beneficiation and marketing of solid minerals as a Special Purpose Vehicle.

He emphasized that Nasarawa State is also committed to increasing new private sector investment in mining and solid minerals in the State, which saw the State’s full participation by the Governor at the Min-Diver Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project in the effort to improve the quality and breadth of geo-scientific data that will adequately drive investment growth.

Hon Kwanta explained that deliberate and sustained efforts are being made to improve the policy environment with business enabling reforms in the state for increased transparency of official fees and procedures to improve domestic and external competitiveness in the ease-of-doing-business, with his ministry developing and hosting a website for access to vital information and for enquiries by business entities.

The commissioner added that, the various interventions by the Engineer Sule administration are essentially driven towards securing foreign direct investment, establishing strong mining industries, building beneficial relationship with international mining corporations, developing local contents, as wells as provide employment opportunities for citizens of the state.

Though it’s a long way to go, however the Engineer Sule administration has kindled a light of hope that eventually Nasarawa State, will assume its true status as the Home of Solid Minerals.

It doesn’t need looking too far into the future, especially, with companies such as the Multiverse Mining and Exploration Plc, which on arrival in the state, committee one hundred million United States dollars to mining activities.

The firm, which already invested seventy million USD, has concluded plans to install a floatation plant worth one hundred million USD, in conforming to the value addition call by the Federal Government.

Hosting Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi, MD, Solid Minerals Development Fund in Lafia recently, Engineer Sule restated the commitment of his administration to exploit the solid minerals potentials of the state.

The Governor made it known that though the state is blessed as one of the richest states in the country because of solid mineral deposits, the state is yet to actualize this potentials.

“Nasarawa is looking at oil now, looking at coal and the rest, but believe me, my biggest interest in Nasarawa are areas of these solid minerals,” he stated.

Engineer Sule agreed that, Alhaji Aliko Dangote is wealthy not because he produces spaghetti, rice or sugar but because he produces cement gotten from exploiting limestone.

“When we started sugar, it was the biggest of the Dangote Group which was the company I was running. Until we went to Agbajana, we went to Benue Cement and then we went to Ibeshi and all of a sudden, we were in 15 other African countries.

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“And today, cement is contributing over N300bn profit before tax annually to the Dangote Group. And that is minerals. These companies that you mentioned Dangote is known for, are only contributing not more than N60bn annually profit before tax. The biggest is actually cement which is contributing over N300bn,” he stated.

Engineer Sule said the only way Nasarawa State and indeed, Nigeria can benefit from its potentials in solid minerals, is to move further from artisinal to commercial mining, which explains why limestone is a money spinner.

He pointed out that, on assumption of office, he discovered that Nasarawa State produces a lot of marble but that the marble is being taken outside the state in its raw form.

The Governor said his administration approached a Chinese firm and two years later, the firm established a complete value chain in Akwanga Local Government Area.

“I am proud to tell you that between 25 to 30 percent of the entire marble in the Nigerian market is coming from there, from Nasarawa State. We are no longer taking the raw marble out because we are doing the entire polishing and cementing here. My dream is to see that we don’t have anything less than 50 to 60 percent of the entire marble in the country,” he added.

The Governor called for a wholistic turn around of the mining industry, urging for the full commercialization of gold mining activities especially in Zamfara and Uke, in Nasarawa State, stressing that the major problem of miners is capital.

“The marble I am telling you is close to my hometown Gudi, but if you go to Toto Local Government there is enormous amount of marble there also. Unfortunately, they are still taking that one out. We are hoping that they can set up another factory there, because it’s a different quality of marble,” he said.

On her part, Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi, said the fund is there to change the story of solid minerals in the state beyond artisinal mining, stressing that part of the mandate of her agency, is to partner with states and the private sector, with a view to changing the mining industry for the good, decrying the fact that, presently 70 percent of mining activities in the country is artisinal.

“We are here to support them at the same time we want a future horizon that is bigger. We want industrialization, we want to commercialize these mines, we want data generation, we want job creation, we want wealth creation, we want social security, we want environmental considerations, we want green inclusion in what we are doing,” she stated.

She explained that, the fund chosed to come to Nasarawa State as its first official engagement in 2023, not only because of its tremendous potentials but because Engineer Sule has a private sector background and who is result driven and an achiever.

Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule
Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule

With such zeal, commitment and unflinching resolve by the Engineer Sule administration, ably supported by a formidable and resourceful team led by the state Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Hon. Kwanta Yakubu, Nasarawa State is indeed poised to claim its true status as the Home of Solid Minerals.

Abare is the Special Assistant on Media to the Nasarawa State Governor.

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