Abuja — Having been given the mantle of leadership in the mining sector for three and half years, the immediate past Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa Bwari, while formally handing over to the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Abubakar Mu'azu, hinted that President Muhammadu Buhari has been kind to the sector.
Bwari, who assumed office as the Minister of State for Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in 2015, said: "Today my journey here has come to an end."
In his valedictory press briefing yesterday in Abuja, he noted: "I am very proud of the job we have done here together, and the way you have all pulled your weights to make my tenure such a fruitful one."
According to him, "You all know how moribund this sector was before the coming of President Buhari's administration due to many years of neglect.
"Some of the challenges we inherited included the following: Insufficient funding; weak institutional capacity of the supervising ministry; limited supporting infrastructure; limited cooperative federalism in sector governance; low productivity; illegal mining and community challenges; weak ease of doing business and perception issues and protracted litigation on legacy assets."
Speaking further, he stated: "We have since worked very hard to change this narrative in order to fulfill our mandate which includes increasing the revenue generated from the sector and its contribution to national GDP; creating jobs for our youths by broadening the range of opportunities available for them; and promoting sustainable mining practices.
"Through a robust process of consultation with stakeholders, we were able to produce a roadmap for the sector that was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on August 31, 2016. This document provides strategic direction to solving the issues through initiatives that will last from 2015 to 2025."
Bwari, in an emotional tone, said: "In all humility, this administration has been kind to this sector and I can proudly say we are leaving it better than we found it. We are leaving it with better funding mechanism, including a N5 billion loan scheme for artisanal and small scale miners at very cheap rates.
"We are leaving it with more accurate data on both the quantity and quality of our mineral resources. We are leaving it with high class drilling rigs and seismic stations for earthquake detection.
"We are leaving it with similar state-of-the-art equipment at the National Metallurgical Development Centre in Jos and the National Steel Raw Material Research Agency in Kaduna. We are leaving it with the draft of a new mineral export guideline which will check smuggling and reduce the time for processing mineral export permit to two working days.
"And we are leaving it with a national gold purchase scheme which will be funded through a Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative to promote the mining and refining of gold for purchase by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under a Federal Reserve Treasury scheme.
"However, we still have some unfulfilled dreams, so we are not there yet. The world of mining is a very scientific one and knowledge is critical to the growth of the sector."