Experts say the federal government must initiate policies to exploit the nation’s abundant mineral resources to move the economy out of the woods
By Portia Onwuyalim
It is no longer news that Nigeria is blessed with a lot of mineral resources in different parts of the country. But the fact that these resources are largely untapped and poverty and youth unemployment are spreading like wildfire in the country is giving Nigerians a cause for concern. This was the pathetic picture painted by speaker after speaker at the 48th international conference and exhibitions of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, NMGS, with the theme: Unlocking Geoscience and Mining Technology for Investment Opportunities and Development in Nigeria, in Lagos recently.
Akinola George, president, NMGS, likens Nigeria to a man that has killed an elephant, but is hungry and looking for a rabbit for dinner. “We are seriously undermining the mining sector of the economy. The government does not give it the required attention in its efforts to transform the Nigerian economy. For instance, look at the economic team set up by President Goodluck Jonathan, the mines and steel development sector is not represented in the team,” he laments. George, the 26th president of the society, adds that the country would not make any headway without developing its solid minerals resources. He reminds the gathering that the NMGS was founded in 1961 with the twin goals of increasing the wealth of the country and improving the lifespan of the citizenry.
Other eggheads such as Anthony Elueze, professor, Department of Geology, University of Ibadan and immediate past president of NMGS and Abiodun Baiyewu, a geo-scientist and executive chairman, Macaw Mediacom Limited corroborate George’s view. Baiyewu cautions that the oil deposits that the economy relies on would soon dry up. He also decries the neglect of geo-scientists who should be in the forefront of efforts to seek alternative sources of revenue by successive governments. Like many other experts, he believes that the country’s solid mineral resources such as bitumen are wasting away because the government is not exploiting it.
Elueze says government must give high priority to the sector for things to start moving in the right direction. “Every earth scientist is a researcher; it is left for the government to give us the resources to carry out the research that would take this country out of the woods,” he explains. The professor attributes the economic woes of the country to its dependence on its import-oriented nature. “Owing to the fact that our oil yields good foreign exchange, it is easy for us to pay for the importation of whatever we desire. As a result, there is no government policy to encourage local production. Until we develop the philosophy of production as the basis of our development, we cannot advance as a nation,” he declares.
George says the society would continue to advocate for the development of the country’s solid mineral sector through the application of relevant technology and policies in the interest of the socio-economic advancement of the nation. He hints that there was the probability of finding oil in the eight inland basins of the country such as Sokoto and Anambra states; Bida, the second largest city in Niger State; Gongola River in Adamawa State and Lake Chad Basin in Borno State. “If detailed exploration is carried out in these basins, we are likely to get oil,” he added.
The president states emphatically that geoscientists had the right answers to the menace of coastal erosions in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub; as well as the problems of collapsed buildings in the country. “I make bold to state here that no professional is more equipped and knowledgeable about the morphology, physical properties and chemistry of soil than the geoscientist,” he says.
To reduce the incidence of collapsed buildings, George calls for the creation of a construction industry commission by the federal government, with offices in all the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory. “The commission will be responsible for the final approval of site area and the building plans before any construction is carried out,” he added.
The NMGS, a non-profit professional organisation with over 3,000 members, organised the conference and exhibitions instituted to provide a forum for interaction between its members. The membership of the society is made up of mining engineers, petroleum engineers, metallurgists, geologists, hydro-geologists, geochemists and geophysicists, to discuss contemporary issues in the mining and geosciences profession and practice.