The President of Miners Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Kabiru Mohammed Kankara says there is no primary processing of solid minerals extracted in the country. He made this revelation during a chat with our correspondent in his office in Abuja. He talked about other issues relating to the solid mineral sector in the country. Excerpts;
Question: Introduce yourself sir.
My name is Alhaji Kabiru Mohammed Kankara, the President Miners Association of Nigeria
Question: Mining in Nigeria and diversification of Nigeria economy what is your role?
Answer: We have very vital and key role to play in the present drive of the economic diversification of President Buhari’s government; in the sense that, when we look at the world economy today and the industrialization drive of the advanced world, they are running away from oil driven industrialization. They are now moving to renewable energy, green energy and magnesium, battery, solar.
So you find that mining activity is key to the present day industrialization drive, not only for Nigeria but for the whole world. So, how do I mean? For the miners to key into this diversification agenda we have to play our own role as providers of the revenue base where government can generate as much revenue as possible, most especially with the oil glut that is happening now in the whole world. Prices nose-diving even COVID-19 has exposed the weakness of oil in the whole world.
So, at one time Nigerian oil was floating on the high sea and nobody to buy. That is why Mr. President just said that about 40% of Nigerian revenue has been lost due to the oil glut and COVID -19 pandemic. So, we as miners are ready to key in, collaborate so that the economic agenda on diversification of the federal government can be realized and be achieved.
Question: Inability of the country to harness all the mineral deposits is the fault of the government and fault of the miners. What is your stand?
Answer: It is the fault of government not fault of professional miners. Why I say so is that, if you look at mining, it is capital intensive. It needs a lot of capital. It is not as easy as agriculture where you can put in some little millions and before you know, harvest is there, production is there, and everybody is happy over a bumper harvest. But when you come to mining, you need a lot of money for you to reach the level you are looking for.
So with the level of solid minerals scattered all over this country, we have 774 local government areas in the country, there is no local government which is not endowed with one type of mineral or the other. Unfortunately, because government has not given the right support and this is by subsequent government.
Since the advent of oil in Nigeria, the past administrations looked away from mineral sector. They forgot that, that is the main source which all the oil rigs, all other industrialization in Nigeria came from but with the coming of oil boom everything went away. They forgot about mining sector and the industry.
Now we have reached a situation we have to look back, we are in problem. Nigerian government is in problem. It is a global problem. Every country is looking for a way out. Nigeria also is looking for a way out. The only sector that can save Nigeria today is solid mineral sector. So it is not the fault of us in the mining sector, it is the government, because government has not given the industry the desired support, financially and policy wise to improve and make the industry reach the standard it deserves.
Question: Talking about natural resources and miners; some school of thought are of the opinion that some of the issues of insecurity in some part of the county especially in the northern region is as a result of people mining secretly what they have there and they clash with the interest of government, is it true?
Answer: I wouldn’t want to challenge government when it comes to sources of intelligence and information, but from my layman’s understanding of the reality of what is happening now, most of the miners we have, we are based in the bush and to some extent the way we are operating is very low in terms of artisanal in most cases. In whatever case you look at it, it is not the miners that are causing any problem as far as insecurity is concerned.
The insecurity must have been allowed to compound within the environment because there has not been regulatory framework, no enough surveillance, no enough law enforcement presence in these areas. That has allowed all the infiltration of local bandits, foreign bandits; everybody to come in especially with the ECOWAS protocol which allows free movement of people in the ECOWAS region. Everybody comes in with colour that looks all the same. You are free you come in, you mingle with us. The worst side of the whole thing is the artisanal way we are doing it, is so manual. It doesn’t have the capacity.
So if I am an artisanal miner, in most cases; when you come, the little I do, because I lack capacity of tools, you come with your money in the bag. That is what most of these people are doing. They come to the site illegally, encourage local people to dig, before you know it, they have taken away everything without the miners getting true value of what they are taking away from the local miners.
We miners cannot control security. Security is the responsibility of the government. It is supposed to be the watch dog of every activity within its environment.
If government can call on us miners through umbrella of miners which is Miners Association of Nigeria, let us collaborate; tell us what we can do, what we cannot do to improve the security of mining sites. But for us now to say, the presence of insecurity is caused by the presence of miners is not true.
Our miners have been away from site for over one year. If you could remember, there was a directive by the Inspector General of Police that mining activities should stop in those two areas of Zamfara and Kastina.
The banditry has it stopped? So it goes beyond this scenario. It is just because we are more based in the bush and most of the banditry are taking place in the bush. So they try to combine them together and make it look as if we are part of the whole scenario.
Question: Miners are stakeholders in the mining industry. What effort have you people made to know the areas that have commercial quantities of certain solid mineral, so that it can be commercialized?
Answer: Government has to come in, because you might be sleeping on top of gold deposit. These solid minerals are all over the place, but unless you have the proper equipment, proper technology to know exactly what and what is there as a deposit.
Locally you can just be digging if you see some traces of gold, tin ore; but unless you have the technology that geological scientists and other surveys are contacted on that particular site before you know the richness of the deposit; the value and the quantity, can it go into the market, what of the quality? Is the quality of world standard that can be accepted by foreign market or not?
We alone cannot do without collaboration of the government. This can be achieved by giving us necessary equipment and technologies so that we can find out exactly what is beneath.
That is why in most cases, these artisanal miners are doing it locally, not going deep down to know if the deposit is rich enough or not.
Question: These minerals that you have mentioned that abound in Nigeria, when you extract it, do have equipment for primary processing before sending it out so that you add more value to the products?
Answer: Primary processing? In most case no. That is why we have been quarreling, we have been asking government come and help us establish, may be processing centres like smelting industries. It is to add value, not sending just raw materials. By sending raw materials we are sending everything out.
What we want is the technology. We want the technology that can be used to explore all the necessary richness and deposit that we have beneath. So for now, value addition is very little but we are asking the government through the senate and the house leaders, the ministry of steel and mines development to come to our aid.
And for the value addition we cannot add value without technology. That is why we are also trying to call on foreign investors and partners to come with their equipment so that together we can collaborate and make sure that value addition is being introduced locally; because value addition will also create jobs for our teeming youths.
Question: As the president of miners, what do you intend to achieve during your tenure?