Nigeria has for the first time refined its own gold and purchased the refined product into a new gold reserve.
On Thursday, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) presented a cheque of N268 million for the country's first artisanally-mined and refined gold.
The cheque was presented to the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMDI) on Thursday at the launch of the gold purchase programme in Abuja.
The 12.5kg gold bar was processed and refined according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standards required for the use of gold as a reserve instrument by the CBN, officials said.
President Muhammadu Buhari launched the PAGMDI, a comprehensive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development programme in 2019.
The initiative is to foster the formalisation and integration of artisanal gold mining activities into Nigeria's legal, economic, and institutional framework.
Speaking at the launch, the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, said the development is a step toward the actualisation of economic diversification in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria will no longer be analysed through the price of crude oil as gold is also valued in the international market in dollars.
He said irrespective of the fall in the price of crude oil, with gold, "the Nigerian economy remains strong, remains resilient to withstand the exogenous shocks that we see around today."
"We seize this opportunity to assure our friends both locally and internationally to say that the Nigerian government supported by the monetary authorities is doing everything possible to diversify the base of the Nigerian economy and in the coming weeks and months, Nigerians and the world will see more that is going to be done in improving the output from our agricultural sector, improving productivity from the manufacturing sector, doing everything to make it easy for goods to move from farms to market in Nigeria," he said.
Also at the event was the Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, who said many states including Kebbi have people in the artisanal gold mining sector for decades but they have been doing so illegally, with health hazards to themselves and damage to the environment.
He pointed out that this is the first time the miners will be energized by a national programme.
He said because of its illegality, the mining brings insecurity.
"The miners are now registered, they have modern tools, protective gear with minimal damage to the environment, and above all they are buying centres which you will buy it from them at prices that they would never have gotten before and with the creativity and support of the Central Bank Governor.
"This gold will go into reserve providing a ready market. So this energizes state governors, gold-producing communities across Nigeria and I believe this is an initiative that will see us through more individually and collectively in this gold production and ensure that people benefit from it," he said.
In her remarks, Executive Secretary, Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), Fatima Shinkafi, said the initiative would not only strengthen the national economy and impact on the individuals, but will also encourage private-sector-led investment.
"They have a space to participate in PAGMI and the laws and regulations are there. We will sensitize people together with the Ministry and the States, who have been very supportive as well.
"We have started a good journey towards improving the economy and we are moving at a very fast speed.
"I hope that this will translate into a better life, most importantly for the households that we intend to impact in terms of making better standards of living for individual families that we are supporting directly and indirectly with the artisanal miners," she said.
The launch was done at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja, and was witnessed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari; Governors Nasir El-Rufai, Bagudu Atiku, Gboyega Oyetola and Deputy of Zamfara, Mahdi Gusau. Others present were the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, and the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Uchechukwu Ogah. Others joined virtually from their various offices.