By Babatunde Jose
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world)
diverts you (from the more serious things) (Quran 102:1)
The growth in Nigeria’s economy since independence in 1960 has not significantly affected the lives and the general wellbeing of majority of its citizens. Nigeria has been dependent on crude oil resources for a very long time, yet, what it offers the economy is a disarticulated and directionless economy, bequeathing nothing but misery and poverty of every kind on the people. Nigeria is richly endowed with 44 different minerals types scattered in more than 450 different locations across the country. This means that development of the solid mineral sector could generate even development of the entire regions of the country.
Among other things, the legislative list in the constitution presents a problem. Part I of the Second Schedule of the Constitution which places mines and minerals on the exclusive legislative list and the fact that “lands” still remains a residual matter within the legislative purview of the sub-national states is a conflict which creates legal obstacles. This tension has kept the law courts busy for decades. This can only be mitigated by a restructuring and a return to true federalism where the states or federating units have control over the economic life of their domain, as it was during the pre-military era.
Despite the huge revenue proceeds amounting to over US$700 billion in foreign exchange, over the years, the country could best be described as witnessing a “jobless growth”. Most of these proceeds were frittered away in frivolous and poorly executed projects; many of which are abandoned, some uncompleted and much of the money stolen in an orgy of self aggrandizement. Hence, the admonition in Sura Takathur, Quran 102: Acquisitiveness, that is, the passion for seeking an increase in wealth and position may affect whole societies or nations. And when it becomes inordinate and monopolizes attention as it is in our clime, it leaves no time for higher things in life. This is the bane of our leadership today.
As a matter of priority, what the country needs is a complete paradigm shift which is believed to be the only viable option to survive mounting economic uncertainty, retrogression and worsening socio economic conditions; which will soon be exacerbated by the impending population explosion.
Diversification alloys us to maximally utilize our abundant resource-base and to enjoy the benefits of all the linkages, synergy, economies of scale, grow national technology and foreign investment profile, build human capital, exploit new opportunities, lessen averagely operational costs, increase national competitiveness and grow the standard of living and confidence of the citizens for national renaissance. The Nigeria solid mineral sector with its long history offers us this great window of opportunities against the Dutch Disease and the resource curse of oil.
In times past, solid minerals such as coal, tin and columbite contributed immensely to the economy of Nigeria. Nigeria was at one point in time the largest world producer of tin and columbite.
Yet with these potential money spinning resources, states in the country are starved of funds and are currently facing a cash crunch. Nigeria as a nation is passing through economic hardship. The low activity in the solid mineral sector is not yielding the desired financial benefit as there are no records of payment of taxes and royalty to the government.
Nigeria is losing lots of resources from untapped mineral deposit as well as from the little that is being mined mostly by illegal miners who smuggle the products out of the country.
“Despite the fact that Gold and Barites were being mined across the nation, there is no record to show that these minerals are among the mined or exported minerals. Further finding shows that barites are mined in Benue and Nasarawa states, they are also purchased by multinational oil companies as drill fluids, despite high activities of miners there are no record of royalty payments. “From the available records of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, there was no evidence of royalty payment on these exported minerals. Thus, even in the mining of our solid minerals, ‘chua chua’ is going on. It is a Nigerian trait, embedded in our DNA.
Stagnation in the solid minerals sector cannot simply be attributed to the meteoric rise of oil: poor management by state-owned enterprises – compounded by corruption and an incoherent exploitation of resources – has also played its part, including a lopsided federalism.
We must not end this series without touching on the vexed issue of cattle ranches, RUGA and armed herders. No doubt in everything we do in this clime, we exceed the limits and bounds of God. “But those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and transgress His limits will be admitted to a Fire, to abide therein: And they shall have a humiliating punishment”. (Quran 4:14). What have we made of the endowment in cattle? Our dairy industry is nothing to write home about. We talk of grazing land and herding of cattle when other less endowed countries continue to make huge monies from their cattle. As at 2015 Nigeria was number 14 in World Cattle Inventory according to the FAO. Nigeria had 20 million cattle; far more than Russia , France, South Africa, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal and Norway. What distinguishes these other countries from us is that they have striving dairy industry and a meat culture unlike here where our cattle are not capable of yielding good meat as a result of their aimless wondering in search of fodder. Their meat is non-nutritious and even their hide are of low quality. Yet, we import corned beef and other meat products from these countries. Shameless people, our elite take delight in consuming sirloin-steak, rump-steak and other quality beef products, all imported. It’s time we change the paradigm.
The whole issue of herders, ranching and RUGA boils down to the need for restructuring; if each state or federating unit were in control of its resources, the federal authority will never have had the insolence, audacity and the nerve, not to talk of the temerity and impertinence of commandeering state land for Ruga or whatever.
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend