From Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has assured Nigerians that the creation of regional mineral projects in the country’s six geopolitical zones would bring about an increase in the sector’s revenue.
Adegbite made this known in Lagos during an interactive session on his ministry’s activities.
The minister said the federal government has received funds to establish regional projects as a way of cushioning the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses by giving priority to minerals where each of the geopolitical zone has comparative advantage.
He said the government is building a plant to process Kaolin in Bauchi, in the North-East, adding that the completion would bring an end to importation of Kaolin. ‘Bauchi is very rich in Kaolin which is used in pharmaceuticals and the paint industry, so we are building a plant to process Kaolin in Bauchi,’ he explained.
While a gemstone market is to be built in Ibadan, in the South-West, where value will be added, he said the government would develop the Barite production in Ogoja, Cross River States in the South-South.
The minister also added that the federal government would discourage the exports of raw lead by building a lead processing plant in Ebonyi, in the South-East, so that the state would be able to export lead ingot with all the impurities removed.
A gold smelting plant according to him, would be situated in Kogi State for the North-Central zone due to its gold deposit and as a way of supporting the Artisanal Miners in the state.
Adegbite mentioned that Kano was selected from the North-West for establishment of a gold souk as a way of bringing back the old story of gold trade in Kano. ‘What we are doing in Kano essentially is not just a market, we are going to have people in the market who can turn the gold into product by transforming your raw gold, add value which can give you jewelries,’ the minister explained.
He also disclosed that the federal government is fine-tuning plans to enable Nigerians use their gold as collateral for loans as well as bring back the goldsmith trade in the country. ‘When we were young we have a lot of goldsmiths in Nigeria, you can take your old gold to them, they smelt it and turn it around by giving it a different design, we want to bring that skill back,’ he said.
The minister stated that the federal government would not be involved in running the business in the six zones but explore a Public-Private- Partnership initiative. ‘What we want to do is partner with the right private sectors to run the business, it is meant to enhance the sector,’ he emphasised.
The minister noted that a lot of work has been done towards the completion of Ajaokuta steel plant but for the pandemic which has prevented the arrivals of the technical auditors. He was hopeful that the Buhari administration would start an irreversible process that will lead to the completion of the steel plant.