Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has called on the Federal Government to site the hub of the nation’s gemstone market in the state in order to boost the mining industry in Nigeria.
The governor, who stated this while receiving the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite, at the Government House, Agodi Ibadan, also sought for the support of the Federal Government to curb the activities of illegal miners.
He maintained that the state has already been putting some structures in place to enhance the development of its solid mineral development sector and position the state to benefit maximally from the immense opportunities available in the sector.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, indicated that the governor added that in line with his promise to build infrastructure that targets the economic expansion agenda of the administration, a number of projects are being put up to support the mining industry.
He said: “We do have some aspirations, which I think we can collaborate on, especially the gemstone market. It is informal right now but we want to formalise it. I know you are from Ogun State but Abeokuta should not even be in competition with us and I will tell you why. Here, we are putting up a number of projects that we think would support the mining industry, especially in the aspect of the expansion of Ibadan Airport.
“So, quite frankly, if we have the gemstone market, we will basically just take off from there to anywhere in the world and that is what we want to do.
“Ibadan used to be a regional capital and we have a fairly developed infrastructure. So, I think you should just give the gemstone market to us and let us sign it up this evening.
“Also, on the mineral surveillance programme, we were looking at doing that on our own, but we think that if we can collaborate with the Federal Government, that will allow us, from the outset to key into that programme. One of the things that we always say here is that we are so much in a hurry to get things done and if the bureaucracy at the Federal Level will not allow things to happen as fast as we will love to see, then we can go ahead. But we can have the arrangement for the agreement that when you are indeed ready, we will just match that together.
“We have seen cobalt here and we have also seen ledium here and when I looked at the quality, I think they told me it was about 70 per cent purity when the entire world is looking for something around 40 per cent. So, for me, even though you classified it as something for the future, I think it is happening right now. Those are opportunities that we really want to wrap our fingers around in Oyo state. I also believe we do have challenges with the illegal miners. Not just here, I believe it is all over the country, but I believe it has to be sorted.”
Governor Makinde admonished the Federal Government to diversify the economy of the country by tapping into the economic benefits available in the mining industry.
“The fact that we have oil and gas reserves in abundance still should not preclude seriousness on our part to develop the solid mineral sector. If you have a little bit of unclarity with what people should do, how people should operate, that clarity has to be around the programme and so the local people can invest massively.”
The governor maintained as part of moves that can demonstrate the seriousness of the Federal Government in exploring the opportunities in the mining sector, the minister should encourage it to become active as part of the board of the Nigerian Marble Mining Company, Igbeti, which the state recently constituted in line with its commitment to expand its economy using mineral development as one of the core areas of focus.
“In Oyo State, we have the Igbeti Marble Mining Company and the Federal Government owns 20 per cent of that. We have seen people but when we came in, we did not meet anybody there. The Board was not in place for so long but when we came in, we started putting things together. We inaugurated the Board a few weeks back but we want the representative of the FG on that Board to be active. We also want the FG, through your ministry, to be active. We want to achieve and align on certain things.”
Earlier, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Adegbite, said the essence of the visit was to spread the gospel of mining to Oyo State and all over Nigeria.
He said: “We are in Oyo State essentially to spread the gospel of mining all over Nigeria. President Buhari, since assumption of office, has tried so much to diversify the economy, especially through the mining sector and agriculture. We have relied so much on oil and gas and whenever the vagaries of the oil prices happen in the international market, Nigeria catches a cold; our economy is in tatters. But to avoid that, there is a massive injection of efforts and campaigns into agriculture, which has started yielding results.
“If not for the effort of the past four years, I think this pandemic would have caught us in more situations. But because we achieved some certain level of adequacy like feeding ourselves, that is why the strength of the pandemic was not so bad on our people. It could have been worse.
“We are in Oyo State to bring awareness and to let people know more about what we are doing in the sector. At the same time, we have been doing a lot of international road shows. We go there and publicise mining in Nigeria. Nigeria is known for oil and gas and it is very difficult to convince people otherwise that mining can thrive in Nigeria. But we are getting some tractions because of the investment that has been put into the exploration of minerals in that sector.”
The minister, who stated that his Ministry has had good cooperation with the present administration in Oyo State, said he has been convinced on why the gems market should be in Ibadan, where he said seems to be the centre for the products, though informal.
“We have had good cooperation with the Oyo State government, particularly this current government. I have had a delegation from my office. They talk about mining in Oyo State, especially the gems market. Oyo State, particularly Ibadan here, seems to be the centre for the gems market, though the market is a bit informal because a lot of them don’t know the value of what they mine.
“The focus primarily is on the minerals but not the gemstones. But now, we are beginning to organise that sector as well to make sure that we regulate the gemstones market. Ibadan and Abeokuta were in competition for that but I have been convinced to bring the market to Ibadan. The market exists already but all we need is to develop a fund and organise the market so that people can derive value for what they have laboured for.
“Government can realise revenue from this market in terms of royalty and everybody will be happy about it. This is part of what we are doing and proclaiming all over the country,” Adegbite said.