*Nigeria must do more to diversify economy-Lawan
…As Bill scales 2nd reading
By Ignatius Okorocha
The Senate on Tuesday, passed for second reading a Bill to establish the Nigerian Mineral Development Corporation to address the challenges of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) currently facing state Governments in Nigeria.
This followed the presentation of a lead debate on the general principles of the Bill by the sponsor Sen. Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (APC-Nasarawa) during Tuesday’s plenary.
Leading the debate on the Bill Al-Makura recalled that the Bill was read for the first time on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.
The immediate past Nasarawa State governor explained that establishing the corporation would provide the much needed revenue to deliver on the administration’s priority areas of infrastructure development.
“It will also ensure social inclusion and poverty reduction, industrialisation and job creation for the citizens of Nigeria,” he noted.
The lawmaker noted that part of this administration’s effort towards the diversification of the Nigerian economy was to strategically diversify Nigeria’s economy from being a mono-product economy to the productive development of various sectors of the economy.
“Next to agriculture, the solid mineral sector has been identified as one with the potential to compete and eventually replace crude oil as a major source of foreign exchange earnings.
“Consequently, the Economy Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) created focus labs made up of professionals from the mining sector to create intervention programmes to de-risk the solid mineral sector and increase revenue for all stakeholders, making the sector more attractive to both local and foreign investors.”
Al-Makura noted that the establishment of the NMDC would urgently address the challenges of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) currently facing State Governments in Nigeria, stressing, “it would provide the much needed revenue to deliver on the administration’s priority areas of infrastructure development; social inclusion and poverty reduction, industrialization and job creation for the citizens of Nigeria.”
He added that, “upon establishment of the corporation, initial funding shall be by way of a sovereign guarantee covering the sum of N5,000,000,000.00 (Five billion Naira only) for a successful take off of the operation including all initial capital and operating expenditure.
Contributing, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu (APC-Nasarawa) said that the coming into being of the corporation would go a long way in enhancing the effort at maximising the existence of solid minerals across the country.
Also, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC-Kebbi) said “Nasarawa as at today has one of the highest quality baryte deposit in the whole world.
“It has been tested and it has been proven as one of the best.
“As at today, Nigeria is spending close to $1.5 trillion on the importation of barytes which is less quality than the one produced in Nasarawa.
“It is very painful that baryte is imported from USA for the purpose of oil exploration.
“When this issue gets to the committee, the committee should equally look at the possibility of inserting a clause that will make it impossible for foreign minerals to compete with the locally produced one.
“Otherwise what we are going to have is a commission that promote the production of these minerals and then the minerals are not put to use.”
Senators IKE Ekweremadu ( Enugu West),Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun Central), Uba Sani(Kaduna Central),Godiya Akwashiki(Nasarawa North) among others supported the passage of the Bill noting that it still establishment will not only diversify the economy but provide employment for the teeming unemployed youths of this nation.
In his contribution to the Bill,Senator Ekweremadu picked holes in the bill and called for compulsory interrogation when forwarded to the relevant Committee for further legislative work.
He observed: “Mr. President, if you look at the title of this bill, it is for the establishment of the Nigerian Minerals Development Corporation.
“Mr. President, if you talk about minerals under our constitution and under our laws, you’re looking at solid minerals and also, Oil and Gas.
“So, if this second reading succeeds and it goes to the Committee, I expect that the committee needs to interrogate this to be sure that we are not doing something that is conflicting.
“Because already we have the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) that is regulating Oil and Gas, and that has to be established fully.
“But if it’s for both, then the bill has to say so, and then we have to also interrogate it against the provisions of the law establishing DPR.”
Citing Item 39 part 1 of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Ekweremadu, further faulted the ability of the bill to shore the internally generated revenue of state governments.
“The problem here, Mr. President, is that minerals – both solid and oil and gas – are the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government, so I’m not sure how this will help the state governments in internally generated revenue,” he observed.
In his remarks, President of the Senate Ahmad Lawan said that it was imperative that the Nigerian economy was diversified, stressing that the solid minerals sector was one channel through which the country could earn the much needed foreign exchange.
“We have a long way to go; we have not done enough.
“At the moment, there are very little investments into the sector and the contribution of the sector to our GDP is about 0.5 per cent even though we are so blessed and endowed with so much solid minerals all over the country.”
Lawan said that the corporation when created would definitely work to ensure the promotion, exploration and exploitation of solid minerals endowment in the country.
He thereafter referred the Bill to the Committee on Solid Minerals to report back in four weeks