By Uche Usim, Abuja
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite has advised local miners desirous of a slice of the N5 billion Mining Fund to have all valid licenses and other vital documents before approaching the Bank of Industry (BOI), if they do not want their applications voided on receipt.
Speaking on Tuesday at a stakeholder engagement for operators captured under the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) in Abuja, Adegbite said that the Buhari administration was determined to address the protracted challenge of inadequate funding which has crippled artisanal miners who make up 90% of the sector.
He revealed that as at September 30, 2020, 138 applications totaling N14.59 billion have been received and were being processed.
“So far, 13 loan applications totaling N1.08 billion have been approved under the fund. Out of this, the sum of N311 million has been disbursed as at September 30, 2020”, he noted.
The Minister revealed that the Ministry has registered 1,495 mining cooperatives with each having over 10 members. Out of that figure, registered mining cooperatives, 140 are gold mining cooperatives.
He added that the North-West has the highest number of registered cooperatives while the South-East has the least.
According to him, Nigeria is blessed with abundant mineral resources that need to be urgently harnessed, especially as dwindling crude oil receipts can no longer buoy the country’s economy.
The Minister explained that the disbursement of the N5 billion intervention fund, which comes with a five percent interest, has been slow because a lot of miners approached the BOI with fake licenses and other forged documents, thus making their requests invalid.
He reminded the credit seekers that the money was a loan and not a grant, urging them to put it into judicious use.
The Minister said: “So far, the Ministry has registered 368 Private Mineral Buying Centre operators, across the country. The Ministry has continued to ensure that host communities to mining activities receive the socio-economic benefits of such ventures through the Community Development Agreements in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act, 2007. To facilitate this, the ministry produced guidelines for the provision of CDA in the mining sector. So far, through the community development projects more than 250 mining communities have benefited from rural road infrastructural facilities, borehole projects, class rooms and scholarship programmes as a result of mining operations within their areas.
In his remarks, the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah said that the stakeholder engagement remains a strategic intervention which seeks to expand and grow the economy using solid minerals.
“The mineral sector is one of the drivers of the economy. Oil and gas no longer pay the bills. The future of Nigeria is in our hands. We need to tell the FG that can buoy the economy.
“ASM are challenged by paucity of funds and they constitute 90% of the miners. So, N5 billion has been set aside to energise the sector. Efficient use of the money is key and more will come. Disbursement has been slow because of the beneficiaries’ inability to meet up the conditions precedent. Those who wanted to benefit caused the problem. People printed fake mining licenses not issued by the cadastral office.
“Again, banks did their due diligence and discovered all these anomalies because they’re the risk bearers. The banks are willing to partner with artisanal miners using the ASM sector but we must be transparent.
“Banks want commitment, character, integrity. There is no risk can’t be mitigated by banks but there are conditions like cadastral license, mining license and many other documents some miners don’t have them and that’s how the issue of additional collateral came about.
“Banks want the beneficiaries to get the loan, work with it and the repay for others to enjoy it. The mining fund is a loan, not a grant. Banks are still giving 26% loans due to the high risk associated with the miners’ inability to have the requisite documents”.
In her remarks, the representative of BOI, Mrs Olayinka Mubarak revealed that the bank’s initial interaction with the first set of loan seekers was not a pleasant one.
“There were many loose ends and we need to tidy that up.
The money is not a grant but a loan with a 5% interest. If miners don’t repay the loans, it becomes a problem because BOI pays back the loan to the government. So, we must tidy the loose ends and get the documentation issue right.
“When we disburse, we share information with other banks on those with integrity. It makes you credit worthy. When you pay back, you can get a bigger loan. We’re helping the youth become gainfully employed. You can come to us and we can work things out. We can share your challenges and if there’s a need to restructure the loans, we will do that”, she stated.
A miner John Odeyemi, urged the government and BOI to relax some of the tough rules placed before loan seekers, in order to widen the number of beneficiaries of the loan.