President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) to provide a six-month progress report on the Solid Minerals Development Fund.
The report which is to be designed to capture accruals from investments is part of the president's effort to enthrone probity and best practice in the mining sector.
At a briefing by the Steering Committee and Management Team of PAGMI at the State House, Buhari asked the team to scale up operations in the mining sector by ensuring that investments go beyond artisanal and small-scale levels.
"The PAGMI Management Team should now develop innovative ways to move PAGMI to the next level to ensure the Nigerian mining story goes beyond artisanal and small-scale mining.
"I support the Steering Committee's target of aggregating 3-5 tons of gold over the next 12 months, as this will deliver tremendous fiscal and economic benefits to the nation. The Solid Minerals Development Fund should work with all relevant Government agencies to identify the support and funding needed to deliver on this aggregation target.
"Now that you have successfully delivered a pilot scheme in Kebbi State, it is time to roll out and expand sustainably across other states. The government is committed to providing all the necessary support required," a statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as telling members of the committee.
Buhari urged PAGMI to ensure that the Solid Minerals Development Fund fast-tracks delivery of other directives to support the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative.
He said all stakeholders should conclude the ongoing assignment of recommending a portion of accruals to be dedicated to the Solid Minerals Development Fund.
The president noted: "The dedication of a portion of accruals to create a sustainable income stream for the Solid Minerals Development Fund is essential to delivering the mandates assigned to the Fund. The development of a sustainable funding stream for the Fund will conclude the implementation of the Fund's Establishment Act, which is a key focus area for this Administration.
"This initiative is of great pride to me because through our intervention we can reach hardworking Nigerians in the field, toiling and the quarries under the sun trying to earn an honest living.
"We have been able to protect them from clutches of those who exploit their hard labor, while simultaneously bringing them into the value chain to earn improved income from their hard work. I expect a six-month progress report that will clearly show significant progress by scaling up the program from its current pilot stage".
Buhari commended PAGMI's steering committee and management team under the leadership of his chief of staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, as chairman and governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, as vice chairman for doing such a good job.
The president said the responsible mining framework which was presented would result in an effective and transparent gold supply chain and demonstrate efforts to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, human rights abuses, and respect for the environment.
He continued: "I am particularly pleased with the coordination and integration aspects of the document. "I want to commend the Central Bank Governor for his support of the Solid Minerals Development Fund in the delivery of PAGMI, particularly in the commitment to paying a fair price to support the artisanal miners and providing a market for PAGMI. The Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning is to be commended also for her support in increasing the capitalization of PAGMI through the already approved facility."
Speaking at the briefing, the minister of State for Mines and Steel development, Dr Uche Ogar, who led the delegation, said since the validation of the initiative by the president "to address the structural and institutional factors such as rural poverty and lack of alternative livelihood and difficulty in meeting legal and regulatory requirements that tends to push artisanal gold mining operators deeper into the informal economy", PAGMI had created the opportunity for formalisation and mainstreaming of artisanal miners, giving them the economic opportunity to live.
He said between 2012 and 2018, $5billion in gold was illegally smuggled out of Nigeria.
The executive secretary /chief executive officer of the Solid Mineral Development Fund, Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi, during her briefing, requested the president to, among others, increase the capitalisation of the Fund in order to extend to other states requesting its intervention which will enable the committee meet up with its 5-ton target.
She also asked the president to order an intervention by the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) to minimise losses by artisanal miners as a result of foreign exchange differentials, declare a ban on artisanal export of gold for at least one year to give PAGMI a chance to checkmate smuggling activities and give a temporary waiver on royalties presently set at about three percent.
Shinkafi called for support of the funding of targeted explorations to catalyse private sector investment and transform PAGMI into a large-scale operator in order to sustain the initiative.
She added that the responsible mining framework presented by the steering committee meets international standards and was produced in conjunction with other stakeholders like NEITI, EFCC and the Nigerian Customs Service.
... Assures Manufacturers Of Access To Forex
Meanwhile, President Buhari has said the federal government would take appropriate measures to improve access to foreign exchange for the importation of raw materials and machines that are not available locally.
Buhari made the promise to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) during an advocacy visit of the association's leadership in response to requests on making the manufacturing sector contribute more to the Nigerian economy.
The president told the Mansur Ahmed-led executives of MAN that the relevant ministry would revisit their concerns about the increase in excise duties on the identified products and other tariff-related matters.
On the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Buhafri said Nigeria would fast track the process of setting up the Designated Competent Authority that will superintend over the administration of Rules of Origin and Commission as well as the automation for issuance of electronic Certificate of Origin.
He added that the federal government would also ensure that relevant structured platforms are established for monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the Ease of Doing Business and improved Government patronage of made in Nigeria products.
"Our strategic plan to boost manufacturing activities in the country is on course.
"We will continue to improve the patronage of locally made goods, bridge the gap between skills required by industry and those provided by our tertiary institutions and ensure seamless access to long term finance for our Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
"We recognize that MAN remains a key stakeholder in this journey and we will continue our engagement with you," a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying.
Affirming his belief that a private sector led economy is the way to create jobs in the country, President Buhari urged the leadership of MAN to continue to encourage manufacturers that government recognises the resilience of their members and other private sector organisations in promoting a virile manufacturing sector in Nigeria.
"I beseech you to continue to support the Government in our quest to provide the appropriate environment that will attract the necessary investment both domestic and foreign for the upliftment of the nation's economy," he said.
On the impact of COVID-19 on world economies, the president noted that while the pandemic had an adverse impact on the Nigerian economy with the attendant fluctuations in the price of oil, his administration has effectively contained the spread of the pandemic and other diseases.
He added that the federal government would continue to consistently deploy prudent means of judiciously utilising the limited revenue to sustain the economy and stimulate growth.
President Buhari reemphasized that in spite of limited resources, his government has made appreciable progress in road and rail infrastructure development, provision of stimulus packages for the manufacturing sector, improvement in energy management and support for exporters with a view to improving the operating environment for businesses in Nigeria.
He said, "These projects are there for all to see. Furthermore, we are vigorously pursuing reforms on ease of doing business and currently putting in place other necessary policy measures and incentives that will guarantee full recovery from the consequences of COVID-19, sustain economic development and further shield the economy from the potential impact of fluctuations in the price of crude oil in the global market.
"I have listened carefully to all the challenges enumerated by the President of MAN and would like to assure you that, like we have done in the recent past, we will give consideration to some of the constraints that are yet to be fully addressed, especially those that align with our policies and programmes for economic recovery and sustainable development.
"Let me assure you that this Administration is fully aware that the survival of Nigeria lies in Agriculture and having a viable domestic Manufacturing sector.
"I must emphasise here that when I say Agriculture, I also refer to Agro-Allied business which is the value-added component in the value chain. A strong manufacturing sector creates more jobs and wealth for our people.
"It will usher in sustainable economic prosperity because we will produce what we consume as a nation and generate foreign exchange by exporting surpluses and by import substitution," he said.
In her remarks, the minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, pledged that the ministry would continue to work with MAN in the areas of policy, trade and create an environment to facilitate the growth of businesses in Nigeria.
"MAN is in business to create a climate of opinion in this country so that manufacturers can operate efficiently and profitably for the benefit of all," she said.
Speaking at the event, the MAN president said the advocacy visit was largely motivated by the need to thank the president for all the support extended to the manufacturing sector since his assumption of office in 2015, and seek the urgent support of the federal government for the manufacturing sector to overcome the binding constraints to competitive manufacturing in Nigeria.
On the challenges facing the sector, the MAN president said the association has articulated remedial measures for these challenges in the Blueprint for Accelerated Development of Manufacturing in Nigeria, which will be formally presented to the president within the first quarter of 2022.
The MAN leadership, however, highlighted a few challenges that could be addressed in the immediate term in order to improve the manufacturing environment, including inadequate supply of foreign exchange, inadequate electricity supply, poor access to long term fund, patronage of Made-in-Nigeria Goods and local content development, looming increases in tax rate, among others.
Ahmed formally presented the new logo and annual report of the association to President Buhari.