* Capable of generating $12bn annually
By James Emejo and Folalumi Alaran
The Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA), Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, Wednesday stressed the need for the government to shift attention towards the immediate development of the solid minerals sector, adding that the gemstones/jewelry subsector alone has the potential to generate about $12 billion annually for the country.
He said Nigeria must strive to benefit from the global jewelry market which is currently worth about $500 billion.
Speaking when he received members of the Nigeria Chambers of Mines (NCOM) led by its president, Alhaji Sani Shehu, who paid him a courtesy visit, he also disclosed plans to establish a special economic zone for the sector.
He said the development of the sector would support President Muhammadu Buhari’s renewed vigour towards a holistic and coordinated exploration of mineral deposits for maximum contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The NEPZA MD said: “Nigeria should be the gem capital for Africa because we have all kinds of gemstones, the most expensive in the world and I doubt if 10 per cent of Nigerians realise that they are living on top of enormous wealth and so we must make use of it. We are aware of quite a lot of foreigners that come and a high percentage of the gemstones used in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka are from Nigeria.”
He said a collaborative understanding between the authority and the chamber was critical towards actualising government’s set goal for the mining industry.
Adesugba added that repositioning the gemstone sub-sector enhances the industrialisation of the country as well as conserve foreign exchange for the benefit of the economy.
He said: “I agree with you Mr. President that there’s a need for us to take a second and deeper look at that sector because of its capacity to deepen the growth of our GDP and industrialisation in Nigeria and also to save foreign currency and increase the employability of our teeming number of youths. This definitely is a sector that we need to actually take a second look at.”
He said the partnership should lead to the establishment of a special economic zone for solid minerals development going forward, adding that this would offer relief for holders of mining licences to escape the threat of forfeiture as enshrined in the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act when operational.
The NEPZA boss further noted that the proposed special economic zone would ignite activities in the sector and create job opportunities for the teeming youth, while the government takes on revenues from the exploration of value added minerals.
He said at the moment, most of the country’s mineral exports lacked value addition, adding that NEPZA intended to change the narrative by using the zone to restore sanity, standard and compliance.
He said Nigeria must emulate countries like South Africa, Ghana and Kenya which had taken their mining sector to an enviable height with substantial revenues from the sector.
He said though the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economic trajectories of nations, the only way out for the country is to think out of the box by establishing a special zone for solid minerals development.
Earlier, Shehu had solicited for the creation of mineral export processing zones in order to build a proper structured minerals export venue.
He said the country is blessed with different categories of solid minerals including kaolin, limestone, dolomite and gypsum as well as metals namely tin, columbite, tantalite, iron ore, lead, precious stones, sapphire, garnet, topaz and aquamarine, among others.
He said some of these minerals are export-based as they are only processed to end use through a complex manufacturing processing which the country lacked at the moment.