Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of Mines and Steel Development, is in charge of a ministry where the hopes for actualizing the Next Level Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari are high. Ajaokuta Steel Company alone, the biggest and the most ambitious of Nigeria’s several steel projects, has the potential to provide hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs to the country’s teeming youth with consequent drop in the crime rate.
A thriving steel industry in Nigeria is sure to stem the estimated $4.5 billion and rising annual import bill for steel products. By domesticating steep production, the increased value added to be generated by the burgeoning real estate and construction industries can be expected to give a great mileage to the President’s plan of moving 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
Time is of essence and Adegbite knows it quite well. “We need to guide our loins and achieve in such a short time”, he said. He assures the President and the nation that he will deliver on his mandate. “This, I am sure that this ministry will contribute its own to that”, he promised.
Achieving economic diversification as a means of lifting people out of poverty has become more pressing than ever before. The mines and steel development ministry under Adegbite’s leadership has taken up the challenge.
Supported by a competent personality as his deputy, Dr. Uche Sampson Ogah, the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, they have introduced measures to optimize Nigeria’s mineral value chain. They have taken steps to develop a gold ecosystem in the country, designed to make the nation a hub of precious metals in the West African sub region.
They have put in place a framework to catalyze the development of the upstream, midstream and downstream sub-sectors of the gold sector. The intervention has opened up exploration and production of gold in Nigeria with the take-off of the Segilola Gold project in Osun State.
The project, which will process 650,000 tons of ore with a target production of approximately 80,000 ounces per year from 2021, is expected to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
Adegbite is offering incentives for investors willing to invest in the sector in his aggressive push to diversify the nation’s economy. In the mid-stream, gold refining companies have been licensed to procure gold from the Segilola Gold project and small-scale miners and refine in Nigeria to London bullion standard.
The plan is for some of the gold to be traded on the bullion trading platform where the Central Bank of Nigeria and local and international investors will be the off-takers. The ministry, under the leadership of Adegbite, has created several buying centers in the downstream to complete the gold ecosystem.
The minister assures that “this initiative will bring about efficiency and transparency to physical trading and transactions of mineral commodities, resulting in accurate mineral data aggregation and reporting.”
According to him, “buying centers with minimum guaranteed price thresholds also ensures that artisanal miners receive the right pricing for their goods relative to illegal off-takers, thus breaking the status quo of illegal mining and increasing the royalty revenue accrual to the federal government. At present, there are over 400 licensed mineral buying centres nationwide involved in the purchase of precious and metallic minerals such as gold, lead zinc, tin, columbite etc.”
Training for capacity building in the gold sector is part of the package through which the ministry will bring in renowned gemstone makers to teach Nigerians how to make gemstones and jewelries to international standard. This is expected to spur a huge cottage industry in gemstone production, create jobs and save the country lots of foreign exchange spent on jewelries imports.
This is Adegbite’s initiative to make Nigeria an exporter of jewelries and gemstones – transforming the industry from foreign exchange consumer to foreign exchange earner for the country. In July last year, the first batch of artisanal-mined gold bars to be purchased by the Central Bank of Nigeria was unveiled.
This is a milestone attained by Nigeria in processing and refining artisanal-mined gold according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standard required for the use of gold as a reserve instrument by a central bank. This has opened an alternative window for building the nation’s external reserve.
Adegbite said the milestone demonstrates President Buhari’s commitment to diversify Nigeria’s economy and foreign reserve. The synergy between Adegbite and Ogah has produced outstanding result of achievements in the ministry of mine and steel development within the short time of their stewardship thereby selected by our editorial team into the top 10 game changers of President Buhari’s next Level Agenda.