Eromosele Abiodun, Nume Ekeghe in Lagos, Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to diversify the country’s economy hit another milestone yesterday in Abuja as the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, presented him with a made-in- Nigeria gold bar, signifying the beginning of Nigeria’s move to use the precious stone to boost its foreign reserves.
The 12.5kg gold bar, which was processed and refined in Nigeria in accordance with the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standards to be used as a reserve instrument by the CBN was purchased by the apex bank for N268,608,236.00.
The cheque for the sum was presented to the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMDI) by Emefiele during the presidential launch of the gold purchase programme at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The event, an outcome of the PAGMDI, a comprehensive artisanal and small-scale gold mining development programme, launched by the president in 2019, marked the beginning of the nation’s gold purchase programme through the CBN.
Expressing his excitement at the new milestone, Buhari said Nigeria lost $3 billion to illegal smuggling of gold between 2012 and 2018.
However, the president added that improved gold mining operations in the country could generate 250,000 jobs and over $500 million monetary value annually through the payment of royalties and taxes to government coffers.
The president, at the official presentation of locally mined gold bars by the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMDI) in Abuja yesterday, said his administration was committed to the task of establishing gold refineries in Nigeria.
A statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, quoted the president as saying that the move to establish gold refineries in Nigeria will support efforts to create jobs, diversify the revenue base and improve foreign exchange reserves.
“Reiterating the determination of the federal government to combat illegal mining activities, the president expressed concern that Nigeria lost close to $3b from 2012-2018 due to illegal smuggling of gold,” the statement said.
The president said the implementation of PAGDMI scheme would culminate in the creation of “gold buying centres” in key mining areas and provide artisanal miners and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who engage in mining with the platform to reflect the value of their work.
The president added that the operations would aid diversification of the country’s revenue base because royalties and taxes would be paid by both the SMEs and artisanal miners who would sell gold at accredited centres, among other accruable benefits.
“With the implementation of the PAGDMI scheme, which will result in the set-up of accredited gold buying centres across key mining areas, artisanal miners and SMEs engaged in mining will be able to capture the value of their work.
‘‘These operations will help in diversifying our revenue base. The sale of gold by artisanal miners and SMEs at accredited centres will help the government in realising royalties and taxes from the sale of these assets,” he said, adding: ‘‘These developments will also help in improving our foreign reserves by enabling the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase the amount of gold in its reserves.”
Buhari stated that aside from the potential gains accruable from revenues generated from mining operations, efforts would also be made to establish gold refineries in Nigeria.
He said he was optimistic that these initiatives would assist in creating additional job opportunities across the gold value chain and simultaneously help the country capture what he described as the additional value created from the gold refining process.
The president also spoke on environmental degradation, pledging government’s preparedness to pay close attention to safety and environmental measures with the aim of protecting both the workers and the environment.
He commended all stakeholders involved in PAGMI scheme for what he described as their painstaking efforts in developing a programme designed to improve sourcing and refining of high-quality gold bars derivable from minefields in Nigeria.
The statement added that the president recalled that the launch of PAGMI in 2019 was timely in view of the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the global economy as well as the Nigerian economy.
The president, who said the effect of COVID-19, and efforts to contain the virus had slowed down global growth, also noted that the trend had been projected to decline into negative territory for the first time since the Great Depression.
He said the current estimated gold reserves of over 200m ounces would help in developing sustainable programmes that would boost investments in refining gold secured from mines in Nigeria.
The president said artisanal miners would be provided with what he described as “guaranteed off-take” by the CBN as part of the design for job creation.
‘‘The gold buying programme by the central bank will ensure that artisanal miners are no longer subjected to the volatility in gold prices that occur in the absence of credible off-takers, which has often led to a significant loss in the value of gold sold by miners, as well as in encouraging illegal smuggling,’’ the president added.
Also speaking at the launch, Emefiele said the development would help Nigeria facilitate economic diversification.
According to him, Nigeria will no longer be analysed through the price of crude oil because gold is also valued in the international market in dollars.
“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.
Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Bagudu, said many states, including Kebbi whose people have been into the artisanal gold mining sector for decades, though illegally, with health hazards to themselves and damage to the environment, now have an opportunity to ply their trade lawfully.
He said: “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.”
The Executive Secretary, Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), Ms. 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.
She stated: “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.”
Present at the launch were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha; Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Bagudu Atiku (Kebbi), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), and Zamfara State Deputy Governor, Mr. Mahdi Gusau.
Others present were the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, and the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Uchechukwu Ogah.
FG Mulls Reserving Marginal Oilfields for Oil-bearing Communities
Meanwhile, the federal government is looking at the possibility of giving exclusive rights to indigenes of host communities in the Niger Delta to bid for certain marginal oilfields in their communities when the process commences.
This would be in fulfillment of a commitment made in 2009 by President Umaru Yar’Adua during his negotiation for peace with militants in the region, culminating in the extensive Amnesty he granted some of the restive youths that had taken up arms due to neglect of the oil-bearing region.
Speaking yesterday to ARISE News, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, said faced with the prospect of the outbreak of fresh violence in the region, the federal government was reviewing the agitation by oil-bearing communities to have stakes in the fresh bids for marginal oilfields.
Enang spoke just as the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) threw its weight behind the demand by Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhobo ethnic nationalities for the termination of the bidding process for the award of the 57 marginal oilfields in the region until indigenes are given the opportunity to own the resources in their land.
Meanwhile, in spite of not processing petroleum products for years, Nigeria’s three petroleum refineries have continued to gulp an average of N10 billion monthly as operational expenses, information from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has revealed.
Enang told ARISE NEWS: “We have taken up the matter for the purpose of discussion and we are working on engaging the communities on these matters. Yes, there is the 13 per cent derivation and the argument is that for every aspect – not just revenues that are derived from it, for the purpose of local content definition, there should be reserves for the areas where this oil is taken from – a percentage of the marginal fields where qualified oilfields from, the areas are allowed to bid for exclusively.
“We are looking at doing it without excluding the indigenes and qualified companies owned by indigenes in these areas to bid for and participate in the national bidding. The challenge is already manifesting in many different directions and the leaders are just bringing out what the youths have been agitating for and what they have been subtly fighting for, which has led to some form of sabotage in the oil production of the gas facility.”
Enang stated that in the past 48 hours, he had personally engaged in managing the situation in Rivers State between the Omuku and the opposing communities.
The federal government, he added, has also engaged the Delta South, Warri areas, relating to the agitation of certain youths.
He said: “The era of big names that were said to be given the contract for the oil pipeline protection is over. And that the amnesty that was granted to young men who have matured to men who are not seeing benefits have now started agitating. This is now challenging the production of oil, gas, the security of oil workers and the security of the oil installations.
“Some days ago, the federal government launched the Ajaokuta, Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline, and right now, the source of the gas is being threatened, which we have been trying to ensure that we address in such a manner that does not lead to combustible situation. We are having a real challenge because these people are beginning a new era of agitation.”
He added that “the government has been trying to improve confidence building, manage a situation where we get the government to listen and act in a manner that is responsive to their demands and we are working with the oil companies, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Minister of Petroleum, and the local community leaders.”
Enang also said the government was doing everything possible to ensure the timely passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
“Given the new agitation we are having and with the knowledge, I have over the last 72 hours, I think we need to sit down with another generation of Niger Delta stakeholders and youths because they are seeing things differently and there is a trust deficit between this new generation of youths who have risen,“ he said.
The federal government is targeting to raise over $500 million from the 2020 marginal oilfield bid rounds in terms of signature bonuses from the 57 fields, which will be auctioned.
Oil-producing Region Wants Bidding Process Terminated
PANDEF has thrown its weight behind the demand by Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urhobo ethnic nationalities for the bidding process for the award of the 57 marginal oilfields in the region to be terminated until indigenes are given an opportunity to own resources in their land.
PANDEF also backed the demand by the ethnic nationalities in Delta State on the alleged marginalisation and abandonment of the multi-billion dollars Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project (GRIP) and the relocation of the floating dock by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
The three ethnic groups had threatened to shut down oil and gas facilities in the region if the federal government failed to address the marginalisation and ensure the immediate take-off of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and the relocation of the floating dock located in Ogidigben and Gbaramatu area of Delta.
PANDEF, the apex socio-cultural umbrella body for ethnic nationalities and people of the region warned that the federal government cannot continue to take Niger Delta people for granted despite providing the nation’s economic mainstay.
In a statement, yesterday signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, the group said the people of the region had not been accorded their dues by the current administration through the appointment of key officers and project execution.
The group endorsed the demands of the three ethnic groups after a virtual meeting of the forum’s national executive, in consultation with strategic and critical stakeholders on Tuesday.
It said: “The demands by the people of Gbaramatu kingdom, the Itsekiri and Urhobo groups are germane and congruent. The issues of marginalisation and exclusion, of neglect, discrimination, unfairness and injustice against the Niger Delta people by the Buhari administration; the abandonment of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project, the relocation of the floating dock, the ownership of marginal oilfields and other issues raised variously by the groups, are issues that PANDEF has been talking about. Sadly, the federal government has been heedless, detached, and carried on with unconcerned ease.
“The Buhari administration cannot continue to take the goodwill of the people of the Niger Delta region for granted.”