banner ad

Nigeria Under The Burden Of Abandoned Heritage – Guardian

| May 4, 2013 More

FOR failing to harness its mineral sources, other than oil, Nigeria is losing trillions of naira to “poachers” in the underground economy.

The Federal government alluded to this when the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Linus Awute, was recently quoted as saying that, in just two years, the nation lost over N8 trillion to neigbouring countries as a result of illegal mining and exportation of unprocessed gold alone.

The two-year N8-trillion loss to gold poachers would amount to N4 trillion per annum, an equivalent of Nigeria’s national budget, going by the structure of current and expenditure estimates in the last five years.

Another stretch of analysis would reveal that this amount’ represents over 10 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), going by the 2011 official figure of  $238.92 billion (N37 trillion).

Describing this business as being far beyond control, Awute particularly fingered Ghana as the major route, where Nigerian gold is illegally being processed.

Local media quoted the Permanent secretary as saying that “the amount of unprocessed gold that has left Nigeria through neighbouring countries, Ghana in particular, and being processed in Ashanti, is enormous.”

But international journalist, Alan Katz, paints a picture of another major route that is probably more significant than the Ghana channel.

In his graphical representation of the “mine-to- world-market” movement of unprocessed gold from the Nigerian State of Zamfara, Alan says (gold) ore is collected from mines near Sunke, bagged and brought by motorcycles to villages like Dareta or Sunke, where villagers grind it and then wash the mix over a ridged board.

The villagers, who do the processing themselves, then use mercury to extract the gold, the result of which is sold to gold traders in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, where the remaining dirt and impurities are separated.

The gold, according to Alan, is then driven to the Benin border and turned over to dealers from the port city of Cotonou, who then sell it to wholesalers from Europe and the Middle East from where it is introduced to the worldwide market.

Even the Ministry of Mines, in its website (as at 11 am on Friday, April 19, 2013), admits “absence of  any systematic exploration and development” for gold deposits.  It further observes that the goldfields have experienced “intense artisanal workings,” which target both the primary gold­quartz reefs and their associated alluvial occurrences.

To channel this “underground economy” to official government revenue therefore, Awute gave the assurance that the Federal Government would boldly address this challenge in artisanally mined gold from Nigeria. He hinted of a new problem-solving mechanism, part of which would formalise the operations of illegal miners to address the issue of revenue loss.

Gold in Nigeria, according to the Ministry, “is found in alluvial and eluvial placers and primary veins from several parts of supracrustal (schist) belts in the northwest and southwest of Nigeria.”

The most important occurrences   are found in the Maru, Anka, Malele, Tsohon Birnin Gwari­Kwaga, Gurmana, Bin Yauri, Okolom­ Dogondaji and Iperindo areas, all associated with the schist belts of northwest and southwest Nigeria.

Going by official maps, there are also a number of smaller occurrences beyond these major areas.

“Officially recorded gold production in Nigeria,” according to the ministry, “started by 1913 and peaked in the period 1933­1943 when about 1.4t of gold were produced. The gold production declined during the Second World War period and never recovered, as colonial companies abandoned mines.

“The Nigerian Mining Corporation started exploration of gold in Nigeria in the early 1980s but failed to be sustained due to lack of funds,” the Ministry explains.

But, in what appears a self-indictment, it also concluded that discovery of crude oil, and its subsequent dominance of the economy, actually contributed to the lack of attention to gold exploration despite its widespread potentials.

In reality, gold, as a natural resource, represents just an infinitesimal part of huge mineral deposits across the 36 states of Nigeria, including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In fact, the argument goes that oil — and the manner of its distribution —, which has become the focal point of socio-political discord, would become a ‘non-issue’ when real commercial mining begins in those other spheres.

 

Almost certainly, the multi-regional shouts of marginalisation, the Niger Delta’s fight for (oil) resource control, the North’s belated calls for oil prospecting in the area and Southeast’s cry of abandonment, including matters of insecurity and disguised battle for politico-economic control of the soul of the nation, would all be resolved if Nigeria dig a little deeper for her sleeping wealth.

Interestingly, the N8 trillion said to have been lost to poachers in two years speaks volumes of the kind of fortune going down the drain due to the neglect being meted out to other potential sources of revenue like coal, tin, Columbite etcetera, that nature plentifully bequeathed to the country.

Experts argue that Nigeria has the largest deposits of Bitumen, Columbite and Tin most of which are available in large, commercial quantity.

It is also believed that further exploration could lead to discovery of more minerals not yet officially listed among the 34 being ‘promoted’ by the Solid Minerals Ministry.

The nation has a full map of mineral endowment, as the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (established back in the mid-1980s) undertook a comprehensive mapping of all geophysical attributes. But tapping into the economic benefits of these resource deposits has remained an uphill task.

Officials of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development would inform that the country has discovered over five hundred (500) location of mineral deposits, nine of which according to official sources, would promoted for commercial gains. The nine include Gold, Lead/Zinc, Iron ore, Coal, Tin Ore, Bitumen, Columbite, Tantalite, Wolframite and industrial minerals.

 

Yet, 33 of the solid minerals are said to be in exportable quantity that could create the much-needed competition for the oil sector, in terms of revenue earnings. Walking this talk has, however, remained impossible, as these minerals remain officially untapped. Instead, a network of smugglers appears to do it better!

It is telling enough that the entire solid minerals sector, not just gold, contributes a meagre one percent to Nigeria’s  $238.92 GDP, a situation that is often attributed to underdevelopment of he sector.

For instance, reports say that over $30 worth of tantalite was delivered to the global mineral market in 2000 alone; but this was done almost entirely through a network of smugglers, according to BHP Billiton, a global mining analyst.

The country, at some point, was a major exporter of tin, columbite and coal, the most bituminous in the world given its low sulphur and ash content that makes it the most environment-friendly, according to experts.

Official statistics indicate that about three billion tonnes of coal reserves abound in 17 coalfields, 600 million tonnes of which were proven to exist in Kogi and Enugu States.

In the same vein, Nigeria can boast of 42 billion tones of Bitumen, twice the amount of its proven crude oil reserves. This huge deposit, if well harnessed, could ease cost of road construction projects and ultimately make the country a net exporter of Bitumen.

Bentonite and Barite Ore are constituents of mud used in drilling all types of oil wells; but Nigeria’s 7.5-million-ton barite, naturally sitting in Taraba and Bauchi states, is said to possess special a gravity.

Many states are endowed with large reserves of bentonite (amounting to 700 million tones) waiting to be developed and exploited.

Even as major companies — tanning, food and beverages, paper and pulp as well as bottling — expend billions of Naira in importing table salt, caustic soda hypochloric acid, hydrogen peroxide, sodium bicarbonate and chlorine, among others, the huge reserves of 1.5 billion tones in Nigeria are still in limbo.

Government, at a point, said it was carrying out investigation to ascertain the quantum of reserves. While Plateau State has salt springs in Awe, Imo has rock salt in Uburu.

According to reports, Nigeria’s 3 billion tonnes of Kaolin is almost evenly spread in all states of the country, even though the Kaolin Company only has a mining site in Bokkos, Plateau State.  Kaolin, due to its coating nature, is useful in major industries, including cosmetics, paper, plastics, concrete and paint.

Needless to say that Limestone, which is used in cement manufacturing, is readily abundant in Ebonyi, Sokoto, Ogun, Kogi and Cross River; little wonder the like of Dangote Cement is widening operations along the axis.

Yet, the estimated 2.3 million tones of limestone remain largely untapped.

Aside the minerals, the country has a repertoire of gemstones — Sapphire, Ruby, Aquamarine, Emerald, Tourmaline, Topaz, Garnet, Amethyst, Zircon, and Fluorspar — the mining of which blossomed in parts of Bauchi, Kaduna and Plateau states.

In an unsavory practice that has lasted for  more than 40 years, however, Nigeria’s heritage in solid minerals is, no doubt, being neglected,  for the very simple reason that oil inflow  is fairly easy and outsourceable: Government simply abdicates to a number of multinational producing companies and money comes into the treasury.

The Mines and Steel Development Ministry has the responsibility for mining administration, a function, which the Minister does with assistance from four major departments — the Mines Inspectorate, Environment and Compliance, the Mining Cadastre Office and the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Department. Interestingly, there was a very huge campaign for investments in solid minerals exploration/exploitation during the tenure of former World Bank Vice President, Oby Ezekesili as Minister. Although the strategic brand marketing initiative tagged “34 minerals” to promote the 34 types of solid minerals located in Nigeria is still in force, according to the MMSD website, the campaign appears to have lost its major steam.

While mouthing platitudes about diversifying  the base of the Nigerian economy, successive governments almost exclusively  concentrated on this practice of abandonement. In fact, from the1980s till today, this idea of diversification has remained the most-used phrases in budget broadcasts; yet, the more it is used, the less diversified the Nigerian economy becomes, for the very reason that dishonest political and military leaders have, over the years, taken only the easy way out.

Asked why this is so, Pat Okedinachi Utomi, a professor of Political Economy puts the blame at the doorstep of  the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, which, he says, has not adequately created  incentives for exploraton of the touted 34 minerals.  He also believes that the easy money from oil will continue to asphyxiate whatever remains of the incentive for solid mineral exploration.

Rather than bring the expected strength from solid minerals, oil appears to have made the country lazy, so much so that other milk cows of the economy, including the Ajaokuta Steel Company and the Delta Steel Company, which basically remain the weeping child of official corruption and political maneuverings in the last four decades, have been abandoned (or so it seems).

But the professor has another issue with the management of the (lincensing) process: “Unbriddled corruption,” he said.

“Very importantly, I think that part of  what Nigeria suffers from is, of course, unbridled corruption. Unbridled corruption has made the Ministry of Solid Minnerals one of the biggest embarrassments in Nigeria. The level of corruption is really so bad that people are not encouraged to enter the solid minerals sector and that’s why the major operators in that area are shifting, fly-by-night kind of miners.

“Unfortunately, the genuine ones always tend to run into some  kind of problems. Local authorities are generally so hostile to potential investors to solid minerals; just like the Alaye factor,’ they will come to say, ‘give me this or that.’  One group will come and attack them and people get so frustrated.”

Utomi narrated to The Guardian his encounter with a former Australian diplomat in Nigeria, who gave him a hint on why Nigeria is yet to become a destination of choice for foreign investors in Solid Minerals:

“I remember many years ago, early 1990s,  I said to the Australian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Matthew NeuHaus, a good friend of mine: ‘what’s happening, Nigeria is full of  all kinds of minerals that Australians are mining all over the world; why haven’t Australians come here? And NewHaus started laughing and told me some incredible stories of Australian companies that tried to enter  here and ran away out of frustration. Many of them ended up in Ghana and are doing well in smaller places like Ghana than taking the trouble of solid minerals exploitation in Nigeria.”

Utomi, who runs the Centre for Vales in leadership (CVL) argues that, beyond corruption, the Nigerian economy has also suffered from the fact that “the financial services sector has not been particularly friendly to anything short of supporting some multinational companies to bring in things for sale”.  This, according to him, has discouraged risk taking, especially in the solid minerals sector.

Be that as it may,  governments at all levels in  Nigeria  have been passive on  harnessing these vital resources for a composite development.

The Nigerian economy in the 1950s and ‘60s was driven by certain endowments in agriculture  and solid minerals, and almost every region was specialised in some particular endowments.

Specifically, the North  was famous with groundnut  (hence, the good old days of the groundnut pyramids) and cotton, while, in the West, mountains of cocoa bags would  stare a first –time visitor at the face.

The Midwest — present-day Edo and Delta States — had rubber as mainstay of its economy; whereas, the Eastern part of the country — comprising all the South East and some of the South South states —  would harvest tonnes of palm oil for exports.

To enhance  the  beneficial outcome from agricultural produce at the time, regional marketing boards were created.

The board has a long history attched to it: some of the best writings on the subject suggest that World War 1 and the sinking of merchant marine vessels in the North Atlantic,  which increased the risk of shipping produce to Europe,  were the critical drivers of its evolution.  The issues around the war made many of the marketing companies — including the UACs, the PZs, the Goldchalks and others — become reluctant to export produce.

To  encourage them and  ensure that the war efforts, which required those produce in Europe were not jeopardised, government then, purchased the produce in Lagos and Port Harcourt and undertook the risk of shipping them to Europe. This  became the initial basis for the emergence of marketing boards, which were christened along regional lines; and they (the boards) became means of financing rural farmers, as well as linkage to research institutions that ensured expansion of quality of yield at the regional basis.

At that (regional) level, mineral interest was well-spread: Jos was specifically known for tin mining, the basis upon which the tin city  of Jos was built.

The Eastern Nigeria became famous with coal; hence, the much-touted coal city of  Enugu.

With  huge deposits of gold  waiting to be exploited around Ilesha, Western Nigeria (the present-day Southwest states) was associated with the resource. But, in Utomi’s words, two terrible things — soldiers and oil —, which came together, happened to Nigeria and this once florishing heritage suddenly went  into coma.

Today, the country — though blessed with, at least,  34 other viable mineral resources — is still comfortable with its monolithic oil economy.

Of course, the concept of ‘peak oil’ talks about the end of reign of oil — when the crisis will be such that oil prices will crash dramatically and the ‘commodity’ becomes less relevant.  And for Nigeria, different kinds of projections, including a report that suggests  maximum 30 years of flow.  Besides,  the research going on in the United Staates of America warns that major consumers will soon be less dependent on oil.

Other oil-producing countries appear to be getting the gist: Using very little of petrol, Brazil currently runs on bio-fuel (which is well refined from sugacane, reducing dependency on oil and fosil fuel).

Similarly, in what appears a breakaway from the old order, Bangladesh runs almost completely on natural gas, as all automobiles use unrefined gas.

Where then does Nigeria stand in this new order?

Toursim… Dying Fast

IF natural resources, other than oil,  have been so neglected, one wonders what becomes of the tourism sector — chiefly driven by national monuments that thrived in the 1960s, through the1980s.

One of such, the Ogbunike Cave, now a ghost of its former self, has been in existence for over 200 years and once served as major tourist and research centre for local and international holiday seekers and scholars alike.

But current “sights and sounds” from the cave located in Oyi Local Government of Anambra State is, however, replete in official neglect: First, the road leading to the cave is dotted with potholes and ditches, making it rough and almost impassable

A guided tour from the old Onitsha road/St. Monica’s junction to the cave entrance covers a distance of about 5.5 km, where a sign, ‘welcome to Ogbunike Cave’, displays the dos and don’ts of the hitherto vibrant tourist centre.

The actual tour usually begins with a 50-feet descending distance leading down to a very large clearing inside the cave, which is surrounded by thick forest of tree (including bamboo and climbers) and shrub species.

According to the manager, Mr. Benjamin Chukwuma Ezeakor, the stream flowing in the cave originates from within and forms a tributary with Nkisi Umuduaka River, which empties into the River Niger.

“The spring water is spiritually powerful for cleansing ailments, diseases and other natural illnesses,” said Ezeakor, who made reference to the plastic buckets used in collecting water from the roof of the cave.

Crocodiles, pythons, antelopes and deer, among others, which, hitherto, inhabited the environment in large numbers, were not noticed last week, as poachers have reportedly driven them further inside the thick forest.

For research purposes, the Ogbunike national monument had hosted students and lecturers from Nigerian universities, including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), the University of Benin (UNIBEN), the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUTH), the Institute of Management Technology, (IMT) Enugu, and Federal Polytechnic (FEDPOLY), Oko, among many others.

According to the cave manager, the monument also serves spiritual centre, with spiritualists regularly visiting it for sacrifices.

Prayer altars and shrines were also noticed within the cave.

A combination of several factors, chief of which are official neglect and security issues, no doubt, ensures that the Ogbunike Cave scenario plays out in virtually all national monuments, including the Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State.

Thank providence for the Obudu Ranch — the ‘last man standing’ in that category.

Spread Of Mineral Resources in Nigeria

ABUJA

– Marble

– Clay

– Tentalite

– Cassiterite

– Gold (partially investigated)

– Lead /Zinc (Traces)

– Dolomite

ABIA STATE

– Gold

– Salt

– Linestone

– Lead/Zinc

ADAMAWA STATE

– Kaolin

– Bentonite

– Gypsium

– Magnesite

 

AKWA IBOM STATE

– Lead/Zinc

– Clay

– Limestone

– Uranium (Traced)

– Salt

– Lignite (Traced)

ANAMBRA STATE

– Lead/Zinck

– Clay

– Limestone

– Iron-Ore

– Lignite (Partially investigated)

– Salt

– Glass-Sand

– Phosphate

– Gypsium

BAYELSA STATE

– Clay

– Limestone

– Gypsium (partially investigated)

– Uranium (partially investigated)

– Manganese

– Lignite

– Lead/Zinc (Traces)

BAUCHI STATE

– Amethst (violet)

– Gypsium

– Lead/Zinc (Traces)

– Uranuin (partially investigated)

BENUE STATE

– Lead/Zinc

– Limestone

– Iron-Ore

– Coal

– Clay

– Marble

– Sakt

– Berytes (traces)

– Gem stones

– Gypsium

BORNO STATE

– Diatomite

– Clay

– Limestone

– Hydro-carbon (oil and gas)

Partially investigated)

– Gypsium

– Kaolin

– Bentonite

CROSS RIVER STATE

– Limestone

– Uranium

– Manganese

– Lignite

– Lead/Zinc

– Salt

DELTA STATE

– Marble

– Glass Sand

– Gypsium

– Lignite

– Iron-Ore

– Kaolin

EBONYI STATE

– Lead

– Gold

– Salt

EDO STATE

– Marble

– Lignite

– Clay

– Limestone

– Iron Ore

– Gypsium

– Glass-sand

– Gold

– Dolomite Phosphate

– Bitumen

EKITI STATE

– Kaolin

– Feldsper

– Tatium

– Granite

– Syenite

ENUGU STATE

– Coal

– Linestone

– Lead/Zinc

GOMBE STATE

– Gemstone

– Gysium

IMO STATE

– Kead/Zinc

– Limestone

– Lignite

– Phosphate

– Marcasite

– Gypsium

– Salt

JIGAWA STATE

– Butytes

KADUNA STATE

– Sapphire

– Kaoline

– Gold

– Clay

– Surpentinite

– Asbestos

– Amethyst

– Kyanite

– Graphite (partally investgated)

– Silhnite

– Mica (Traces)

– Aqua marine

– Ruby

– Rock Crystal

– Topaz

– Flosper

– Tourmaline

– Gemstone

– Tentalime

KANO STATE

– Prrochinre

– Cassiterite

– Copper

– Glass – Sand

– Gemstone

– Lead/Zinc

– Tantalite

KATSINA STATE

– Kaolin

– Marble

– Salt

KEBBI STATE

– Gold

KOGI STATE

– Iron-Ore

– Kaolin

– Gypsium

– Feldsper

– Goal

– Marble

– Dolomite

– Talc

– Tantalite

KWARA STATE

– Gold

– Marble

– Iron-Ore

– Cassiterite

– Colubite

– Tantalite

– Feldspar (Traces)

– Mica (Traces)

LAGOS STATE

– Glass-sand

– Clay

– Bitumen

NASARAWA STATE

– Beryl (emerald)

– Asquamirine and

– Haliodor)

– Dolomite/Marble

– Sapphire

– Tourmaline

– Quartz- Amethyst (Topaz, gamet)

– Zireon

– Tantalite

– Cassiterite

– Columbite

– Limenite

– Galena

– Iron-Ore

– Barytes

– Feldspar

– Limesstone

– Mica

– Cooking coal

– Talc

– Cay

– Salt

– Chalcopyrite

NIGER STATE

– Gold

– Talc

– Lead/Zinc

OGUN STATE

– Phosphate

– Clay

– Feldspar (traces)

– Kaolin

– Limestone

– Germstone

– Bitumen

ONDO STATE

– Bitumen

– Kaolin

– Gemstone

– Gypsium

– Feldspar

– Granite

– Clay

– Glass-sand

– Dimesion stones

– Limestone

– Coal

OSUN STATE

– Gikd

– Talc

– Toumaline

– Toumaline

– Colimbite

– Granite

OYO STATE

– Kaoline

– Marble

– Clay

– Sillimnote

– Talc

– Gold

– Cassiterite

– Aqua Marine

– Dolomite

– Gemstone

– Tantalite

PLATEAU STATE

– Emerald

– Tin

– Marble

– Granite

– Tantalite/columbit

– Lead/Zinc

– Barytes

– Irton-Ore

– Kaolin

– Belonite

– Cassiterrite

– Phrochlore

– Clay

– Coal

– Wolfam

– Salt

– Bismuth

– Fluoride

– Molybdenite

– Gemstone

– Bauxite

RIVER STATE

– Glass-sand

– Clay

– Marble

– Lignite (traces)

SOKOTO STATE

Kaolin

– Gold

= Limestone

– Phosphate

– Gpsium

– silica-sand

– Clay

– Laterrite

– Potash

– Flakes

– Granite

– Gold

– Salt

TARABA STATE

– Kaolin

– Lead/Zinc

YOBE STATE

– Tintomite

– Soda Ash (partially Investigated)

ZAMFARA STATE

– Goal

– Cotton

– Gold

 

Category: Bauchi State News

Comments are closed.