It one of the greatest modern ironies that Nigeria remains a poor country in spite of the sheer embarrassment of riches the country is blessed with. That about 91 million of Nigeria
s 250 million citizens remain poor continues to indict the countrys commitment to its citizens since independence became a reality in 1960/
A sole shining light.
In 1956, as the country counted down to independence in 1960, gold was struck in the fields of Oloibiri in Bayelsa State when oil was discovered to set the Giant of Africa on the path to a prosperous future.
When Nigeria finally gained its independence in 1960, gaining in the process the full control of its resources, a national sigh of relief was breathed. Because not a few thought that things could only get better for a newly independent country.
In 1966, Military coup after military coup convulsed a country that was struggling to find its feet before a calamitous Civil War broke out in 1967 to leave the country on the brink of disintegration. An uneasy peace was restored in the country in 1967, but it has remained a peace of the graveyard.
However, oil has come a long way in the life of the country since discovery in 1956. Its journey in the life of Nigeria has taken it from being just one out of many options in 1956 through 1960, and the early years of Nigeria
s independence, to becoming the countrys sole option and the beating heart of its mono-product economy.
Once petro-dollars began to pour in, complacency set in and with it a chilling dereliction that saw other drivers and potential drivers of the Nigerian economy abandoned for the riches of oil wealth. As surely as night follows the day, corruption soon followed complacency.
And between oil-lubricated corruption and complacency which have seen Nigeria fail to diversify its economy,life in the country has become the ultimate slog.
A veritable goldmine.
Had Nigeria managed to shake off its oil-induced stupor, perhaps, it would have looked towards other areas,diversified its economy and de-emphasized a deleterious dependence on oil which has fueled state-run corruption and superintended the shocking damage done to the environment in the Niger-Delta area. In turn, this would have improved revenue generation and job creation for economic growth.
To do this, the Giant of Africa would not have needed to look very far to see the vast potentials in its mineral resources and their mining.
Nigeria is enriched with about 44 different types of minerals in commercial quantity including marble, gypsum, lithium, silver, granite, gold, gemstones, bentonite, iron ore, garnet, tourmaline, emerald, topaz, amethyst, sapphire, laterite, talc, among others.
Some of these minerals have been attracting foreign investors for some time now. For example, the Director-General of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency, Dr. Abdulrazak Garba, recently disclosed to journalists that high-grade lithium discovered in Nigeria has been attracting foreign investors. Lithium is a highly reactive metal that is used for making energy-dense rechargeable batteries for electronics such as laptops, cell phones, electric vehicles, and grid storage.
Nigeria has in place some legislations to regulate its solid minerals regime. Some of these regulations include the Minerals and Mining Act No. 20 of 2007(the MMA), the National Minerals and Metals Policy, Nigerian Minerals and Mining Regulations and the Company and Allied Matters Act.
But underutilization of these mineral resources has been responsible for the slow development of the counry.This much was stated by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, MMSD, Olamilekan Adegbite during the 1st International Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Society of Economic Geologists, NSEF, held in Abuja, with the theme: “Economic Diversification: The Role of the Geoscientist,” from June 27th to June 29th 2022.
Recently too, the Minister was at hand at the Nigerian day at the 2022 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, International Convention,Trade Show and Investors Exchange in Canada to state that Nigeria is blessed with 44 different types of minerals in commercial quantity in over 500 locations in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Landmines of insecurity and poverty
However, the presence of these minerals and their mines in many communities across Nigeria has not always been a blessing.
Nigeria has a Solid Minerals Development Fund set up by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration via an Executive Order in 2002 to help develop alternative mineral resources to lessen the nation`s dependence on petroleum, boost export revenues and drive local industrialization. However, abuse of the fund and the mining sector has been rife and Nigerian communities have tales of woe to tell.
On June 28, 2022, gunmen attacked a mine in Ajata Aboki village in Shiroro region of Niger State reportedly killing some people including security personnel and abducting four Chinese workers.
The attack on Ajata Aboki may not have had as much to do with the mining activities going on there as with Nigeria
s worsening security situation, however, it did reflect the grim situation of Nigerias solid minerals sector and the mining activities which surround then.
It is in the same vein that some thought must be spared for mineral-rich communities of Zamfara, Osun, Kogi and Ekiti states which have all devastated by the activities of illegal miners and their vicious crimes.
Nigeria has to cover a lot of grounds if the most vulnerable Nigerians are to benefit from the abundant mineral resources the country is blessed with.