Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, said his administration is making concrete efforts towards exploiting the solid minerals potentials of the state.
Engineer Sule made this known when he hosted the Managing Director, Solid Minerals Development Fund, Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi and her team, at the Government House, on Tuesday.
According to the Governor, even though Nasarawa State is blessed and one of the richest states in the country because of the mineral deposits, the state is yet to actualize this potentials.
Engineer Sule assured however, that his administration has started making efforts towards harnessing the solid minerals potentials of the state.
“Nasarawa is looking at oil now, looking at coal and the rest but believe me, my biggest interest in Nasarawa are areas of these solid minerals,” he said.
The Governor nevertheless, decried the low funding in the sector, as well as the artisinal level and lack of commercialization of the solid minerals sector.
He recalled that he was the only Governor to have accompanied the minister for solid minerals to the annual Indaba in South Africa, all in the bid to find genuine investors who will come into Nasarawa State to develop the mining sector.
Engineer Sule agreed that, Alhaji Aliko Dangote is wealthy not because he produces spaghetti, rice or sugar but because he produces cement gotten from exploiting limestone.
“When we started sugar, it was the biggest of the Dangote Group which was the company I was running. Until we went to Agbajana, we went to Benue Cement and then we went to Ibeshi and all of a sudden, we were in 15 other African countries.
“And today, cement is contributing over N300bn profit before tax annually to the Dangote Group. And that is minerals. These companies that you mentioned Dangote is known for, are only contributing not more than N60bn annually profit before tax. The biggest is actually cement which is contributing over N300bn,” he stated.
Engineer Sule said the only way Nasarawa State and indeed, Nigeria can benefit from its potentials in solid minerals, is to move further from artisinal to commercial mining, which explains why limestone is a money spinner.
He pointed out that, on assumption of office, he discovered that Nasarawa State produces a lot of marble but that the marble is being taken outside the state in its raw form.
The Governor said his administration approached a Chinese firm and two years later, the firm established a complete value chain in Akwanga Local Government Area.
“I am proud to tell you that between 25 to 30 percent of the entire marble in the Nigerian market is coming from there, from Nasarawa State. We are no longer taking the raw marble out because we are doing the entire polishing and cementing here. My dream is to see that we don’t have anything less than 50 to 60 percent of the entire marble in the country,” he added.
The Governor called for a wholistic turn around of the mining industry, calling for the full commercialization of gold mining activities especially in Zamfara and Uke, in Nasarawa State, stressing that the major problem of miners is capital.
“The marble I am telling you is close to my hometown Gudi, but if you go to Toto Local Government there is enormous amount of marble there also. Unfortunately, they are still taking that one out. We are hoping that they can set up another factory there, because it’s a different quality of marble,” he said.
Engineer Sule added that, the major preoccupation of his administration, is ensuring that Nasarawa State develops her marble completely with the value chain before taking the finished product to the market, likewise for all the other mineral deposits such as zinc, lead, cobalt, etc.
Earlier, in an opening remarks, Hajiya Fatima Umaru Shinkafi, MD, Solid Minerals Development Fund, an agency under the Presidential Artisinal Gold Mining Initiative (PAGMI), said the fund is there to change the story of solid minerals in the state beyond artisinal mining.
Hajiya Fatima said part of the mandate of her agency, is to partner with states and the private sector, with a view to changing the mining industry for the good, decrying the fact that, presently 70 percent of mining activities in the country is artisinal.
“I think this is an aberration and we need to do something about it. We don’t ignore it and we don’t criminalize the artisans.
“We are here to support them at the same time we want a future horizon that is bigger. We want industrialization, we want to commercialize these mines, we want data generation, we want job creation, we want wealth creation, we want social security, we want environmental considerations, we want green inclusion in what we are doing,” she stated.
She explained that, the fund chosed to come to Nasarawa State as its first official engagement in 2023, not only because of its tremendous potentials but because Engineer Sule has a private sector background and who is result driven and an achiever.
“I am very passionate about Nasarawa State because I am aware of the tremendous potentials. I am also passionate because I know that the captain that sails the ship is a private sector driven, result driven doer. He is an executioner and I like to work with people who get things done. I have his history more than he knows. I will not turn it into an eulogy session for him but I am aware he gets things done. And I like people who get things done, with the private sector driven mind that he has brought to Nasarawa State,” Hajiya Fatima added.
She assured that the fund is available to support artisinal miners in the state, especially that Nasarawa State has comparative advantage in terms of security compared to other states like Zamfara.
“We want to extend industrialization beyond limestone and cement. Nasarawa State is extremely rich, wealthy. You have a comparative advantage of security. Congratulations on the giant strides in Nasarawa State,” the MD added.
While identifying capital as major challenge for most states, especially as the states are torn between financing health, roads, infrastructure, salaries and so many demands that there is no way with the meagre resources coming to the state, they can make huge investment in this sector, she said the fund is coming to the rescue by bringing together diverse investment and financing capabilities.
“But what you do bring to the table is much more than money and that is the institutional support, the community support that I am looking forward to enjoy from this relationship. We on the other hand, have leverage Federal support to translate a lot of opportunities into reality and projects,” Hajiya Fatima said.
On his part, Nasarawa State Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Hon. Yakubu Kwanta, while leading the team to the Government House, Hon Kwanta, commended the political will of the Governor to turn around the solid minerals sector in the state for the better.