Covid-19 Meltdown: Nigeria Weighs In On Solid Minerals, As MP Projects Bayelsa
By Etete Enideneze
Ahead of imminent recession to be occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Nigeria is weighing in on its abundant solid minerals as one of the potential ways to diversify and provide safety valves for its economy.
The country has over depended on crude oil and gas obtained mainly from the Niger Delta Region about five decades now, without commensurate re-investments in other sectors, let alone developing the oil bearing communities. The mono-product economy has in turn caused recession in the past, especially as all levels of government wait for dwindling oil revenues from the Federal Allocation Account (FAC), monthly.
To tackle economic downturn after the COVID-19 scourge, the government is to take fuller advantage of its abundant solid minerals inadequately explored, and left for illegal miners, particularly in the Northern States, despite powers over solid minerals being vested with the Federal Government.
Feelers from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, indicate the government’s willingness to optimally explore the solid minerals in the country in order to supplement revenues from other sources.
Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah stressed that the need to maximally take advantage of the solid minerals in the country, has become even more important, considering the present and future economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He spoke during a courtesy call on him by Prof. Steve Sinikiem Azaiki in Abuja, in which he assured that the ministry would partner with states that have solid minerals to streamline exploration at large scale commercial level.
According to Dr. Ogah, Bayelsa State will be among states that the ministry would partner with to explore solid minerals.
Earlier, Prof. Steve Sinikiem Azaiki had informed the Minister that, apart from crude oil and gas, Bayelsa State also has solid minerals such as Quartz, Silica Sand, Gypsum, Uranium, Limestone, Manganese, Led, Zinc, Lignite and others, unexplored.
Azaiki who represents Yenagoa-Kolokuma/ Opokuma Federal Constituency in the House of Represerntatives on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), further expressed the readiness of the Bayelsa State Government under Senator Douye Diri to partner with the Federal Government and private investors in the exploration of solid minerals.
According to him, the current fall in national revenues due to fall in price of oil and gas at the international market, exhaustive nature of these resources and the shift to renewable energies and electric cars, were serious threats to crude oil-dependent economies.
The Lawmaker added that these account for why the Senator Diri-led Government in Bayelsa was looking at solid minerals, agriculture, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and other sectors, to boost economic development.
Azaiki emphasized that given the availability of raw materials in the state, Bayelsa could partner with the Federal Government and private investors, for instance, to produce glass and ceramic products for local and export purposes in order to boost revenues.
It will be recalled that many advocates have in the past called for formal commercial tapping of solid minerals to supplement revenues from crude oil and gas, but not much have been done.
Prof. Azaiki’s case for diversification of revenue sources, tallies with the calls made by other advocates, for instance the Mamuzee music and dance crooners: Anthonio Akpos Dixon and Andre Andos Dixon, twin brothers who are currently using their art to campaign for exploration of solid minerals to bolster employment opportunities for youths.
The artistes in a past interview with this reporter had said that the researches done by them show that Bayelsa has many solid minerals including Granite used for making the casing of mobile phones, Titanium for making of aircraft alloys, as well as Gold deposits, but were not tapped, until COVID-19 has become the eye-opener.
Photo: From left, Minister of State, Steel and Mines Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah, receiving complimentary copy of book from author, Prof. Steve Azaiki (Right) during a courtesy visit on the Minister