For decades, many people have been talking about the rich mineral potentials in Nigeria, without doing much to exploit them. In this interview with Gabriel Ewepu, the National President of Miners Association of Nigeria, MAN, Kabir Kankara, tasked the Federal Government to demonstrate more seriousness in boosting investment in the sector.
Can you tell us about activities of the sector in 2019, and your expectations in 2020
The year 2019 was for awakening, sensitization, mobilisation and participation of local and foreign investors in the sector. It was the year the government and the business community realised that the sector was about the only one left for the government to achieve its economic diversification agenda. Consequently, it came out to participate, assist and collaborate with actors in order to resuscitate it. We had an engagement with the House Committee on Solid Minerals to discuss many issues, including local content. We also had a Mining Week, which was very successful, with many participants, such as Dangote, PwC, governors, ministers, senior members of the National Assembly, and other captains of industry..
What do you expect in 2020
We are looking forward to seeing the seriousness of government in transforming the sector in order to open it up for more local and foreign investments. We need to make the sector more attractive through our policies and incentives because investors are looking forward to the best environment to invest their resources.
Looking at the 2020 budget, do we have adequate funds to execute projects and programmes?
The budget may be considered small or inadequate. But the solid minerals sector is not a government affair alone. The government should provide the backing and encouragement that investors desire to invest in the sector. We are looking at this critically. Like I said I don't want to say to government that its money is too small and it is meant for the ministry and the ministers who know what to do as far as the administrative framework is concerned.
As a stakeholder I want to see that there is collaboration, total practical encouragement to all sectors with all incentives from the government and the private sector.
If you remember, towards the end of 2019 the Nigerian Downstream Policy-A Value Chain Mineral Initiative was launched. What are your expectations in 2020 about this initiative by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development?
We keep looking at our things from one-sidedness. What I am trying to say is that as long as the government knows exactly what she is looking for because at times policies are being advised, made or encouraged by the government or individuals from the private sector maybe for selfish interest.
This particular downstream sector policy that has been launched we are hoping is going to be a window for the solid minerals sector to participate, come on board and see that it becomes relevant for the economic development of this country.
Taking you back to security issues at the mining sites in 2019, what do you think government can do to improve on it in 2020?
The security aspect in the mining sector and the mining sites to be precise is as critical as serious. I think we are having a sweeter and brighter picture of the scenario now. Insecurity is reducing and getting lower and lower; activity is becoming more active and pronounced now.
In January, in the next one or two weeks I intend to sit down with the Inspector General of Police, and possibly pay a courtesy visit to the Chief of Army Staff , Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, National Security Adviser, Comptroller General of Immigration. I have already called the Comptroller General of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. These people are the key in national security. They are to be approached and spoken with because without their complete input the sector cannot climb up.
I believe they are all equal to the task to give us the necessary attention and assistance so that insecurity can reduce. No foreign investor will come and invest with millions of dollars in an insecure environment. Security is critical, these actors are equal to the task, we can see insecurity going down, and it is a good sign.
The mines that were closed in 2019 by the Nigerian Police Force, are they being reopened?
That is one of the items I intend to discuss with the Inspector General of Police because it was publicly announced that some of the mining sites are being closed because of security challenges. I would want to go to the Inspector General of Police, plead with him now that the insecurity has gone down so that he can publicly, and officially announce that miners can comfortably go and do their activities without hindrance. Officially, it has not been announced.
What advocacy does your association intend to carry out in 2020, especially to the state chapters?
There is a lot to be done. The code name for this year is 'Year of Action', especially to my state chapters for advocacy because most of the state chapters are comatose, not practically inactive for so many reasons. Some of them are not financially sound. This issue of lack of financial assistance from the government and other financial institutions is hampering activities and activeness of my members nationwide, from the state, local government and national levels. This year we are going to see how we collaborate and bring our brothers together and get to where we want to reach.
Membership is open and people should understand one thing that you don't need to be a geologist or engineer to be a miner. You have to only understand the rudiments. You can bring together the professionals who will guide you.
You don't have to study political scientist to be a good politician. Anybody can be a good miner. Mining is one of the best ways to invest your money. Mining can produce many 'Dangotes' because Nigeria has all the solid minerals.