The Senate Committee on Solid Minerals on Wednesday assured the Minister of Solid Minerals Development of its readiness to support it with budgetary allocation to enable it to generate necessary data that would attract investors to the sector.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Samson Ekong (PDP, Akwa Ibom South), gave the assurance when the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Mr Dele Alake, appeared before the panel to defend his 2024 budgetary allocation.
Alake had earlier told the committee that the ministry, under his leadership, requires huge funds to generate geoscience data on about 44 mineral deposits across the country, which countries are interested.
A look at the ministry’s budget proposal showed that N24,917,158,629 had been earmarked for capital expenditure in 2024 out of its total allocation of N29,243,373,419.
Alake said the availability of the data would help to attract investors into the sector.
He said: “The first thing is to create the attention necessary for this sector before the international community, before local investors, and with all sense of modesty, distinguished senators, I want to state categorically that we’ve been able to achieve that in the last 100 days more than what had been achieved in that sector in several years.
“Today, international investors are on our necks making inquiries as to which minerals they are interested in, that they want to pump in their foreign direct investment and all of that.
“Even a few days ago, I was at the mines and money conference in London, which is an annual thing with members of my team and the degree of interest that our presentations generated there was quite enthusiastic and very, very encouraging.
“In fact, during the conference, the Secretary of the United States came to me. We had a very useful meeting, expressing serious interest in our solid mineral sector, and said categorically that in the last couple of weeks, the attention reverted on that sector had generated their own interest that they didn’t even know before that we had all of these things. Now they are interested in coming with their money, which we need.
“Secondly, I and my team had a meeting with the UK Deputy Prime Minister in Downing Street. Again, based on some of the activities that we have been able to put in place in the last three months, he said they are very, very interested in our lithium especially.
“In fact, the man gave us some tips that I will share with you on camera and asked that our President should come. I delivered the message immediately to our President to consolidate this process further.
“Now, having diverted attention, global, local attention into that sector, the next best thing we should do, and we ought to do, which we must do, is the generation of the necessary data, geo-scientific data, without which no investor will make an informed decision or projections as to what he or she or corporate body wants to invest in.
“For instance, previous work in the geo-data section had shown us that we have at least 44 minerals that are in demand globally. However, we do not have the data that will tell us the quantum of what we have in Zones A, B, C and D.
“So what the investors are doing, or operators are doing as of now, is partly speculative, and no big player will come into your sector based on speculation. No serious investor would do that.
“They want to be able to make calculations and project how much they are investing, how long it will take them to recover, and all of that.
“All of these are contingent on the geoscientific data that we can’t generate, and these things don’t come cheap. We don’t have the equipment locally. We don’t even have certain personnel that are highly technical and professional.
“So we rely on external assistance, which means, distinguished senators, we need your assistance in this area in terms of budgetary allocation, specifically to this sector, without which we will be playing at a medium level of artisanal, illegal miners, and speculators as scavengers at best.
“But like in the oil industry today, if you talk about the oil industry in Nigeria, you talk about the majors, the big majors. You talk about Mobil, Shell, Chevron, and all that.
“Of course, you have the medium players, but without the big players in that sector, Nigeria will not be able to really derive the kind of benefits that it should derive from these God-given abundant resources.
“So we need a lot of support in geodata generation – exploration we call it generally.”