By Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The federal government weekend commissioned the first incubation centre for gemstone faceting in the country.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa Bwari, who on behalf of the government, commissioned the gemstone centre located in Gwarimpa, Abuja, stated that the establishment of a gold refinery and the faceting centre in Nigeria would go a long way in preventing gold/gemstone smuggling, especially if transparent and competitive pricing method is adopted.
Bwari, while delivering his speech at the occasion, hinted that the ministry is finalising Solid Mineral Export guidelines in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Custom, NEPC, CBN, NPA, and other stakeholders.
According to him, “The issue of exporting unprocessed solid mineral products would be adequately taken care of in this document. It would also enable the CBN to easily procure refined gold for its reserve scheme.”
The minister further hinted that the current administration is doing its utmost best to see that precious stones are no longer smuggled out of the country.
According to him, “We are working in collaboration with the Customs and the officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority. We have an inter-ministerial understanding and an inter-ministerial committee that is dealing with that.
“We have training in Jos for the Customs and all other agencies that are involved in it this assignment so that they will be able to identify all the kind of gemstones that we are talking about or the minerals that are involved in this smuggling.”
He said: “Nigeria is endowed with gold and gemstone resources located in several states that are currently exploited by ASM operators. These are mostly smuggled out of the country in unrefined/unprocessed form leading to massive losses of earnings for government and the producers, as the gold/gemstones are mostly not appropriately priced.”
He observed that local value addition on gemstones leading to the elimination of the current practices of rough gemstones export that brings about the loss of jobs associated with value addition to other countries, loss of earnings by both gemstone producers/dealers and government in addition to loss of opportunities for acquiring/developing genstone value addition skills in the country would be addressed.
“The purpose of establishing the faceting centre as outlined by the Chairman of AMRAN in his address are laudable, as the centre will no doubt facilitate the training of youth in the art of gemstone faceting that would enable them to establish business of their own resulting in jobs and wealth creation for our teeming youth.
“ASM gem miners obtaining premium value for their rough gem products arising from the establishment of a veritable market place for rough gemstones in the country could be easily regulated,” he said.
Speaking on what the country stand to gain by commissioning the centre, the minister said: “Already, they are training some of our children, and with these, it will address the whole value gemstone chain from exploration, exploitation and processes.
“Instead of carrying all these things out, we will now be processing in our country and would lead to job creation, lead to the development of our youths and the revenue that has been lost will now be realised here and added to the GDP,” he said.
In his earlier address, Chairman, AMRAN Mining Company Limited, Alhaji Lamba Zannah, stated that the centre has the capacity to train up to 500 youths annually to be good cutters in addition to other gemstone value chain agents.
He said: “What we intend to offer to our trainees as they come in batches is to teach the standard cut which is within the capability of almost everybody.
“We urged government to assist in providing financial support in form of grants and soft loans from the Solid Mineral Development Fund or any other source to facilitate early reaping of the benefits from the subsector and itsÂ upstream and downstream industries.
“Government must also try to discourage export of unprocessed gemstonesÂ to conserve our natural resources and encourage value addition onshore,” Zannah said.