By Anita Okoro.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has said the Federal Government’s proposed ban on motorcycles and mining activities would have grave consequences for the country’s economy.
The chamber said it was concerned about the unintended consequences the ban would have on the mining sector and the business environment in the long run amid rising unemployment in the country.
The National Security Council had last week proposed a ban on motorcycles and mining activities to curb terrorist activities, saying such a ban would disconnect terrorists from their sources of funding.
But Chinyere Almona, LCCI director general, said though the Mining and Solid Minerals Group of the LCCI understood that criminals use motorcycles as means of mobility and escape from the security agencies, it was unacceptable to label the entire Nigerian mining sector as sponsors of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria.
“This looks like an attempt to blame all legitimate mining operators for the activities of bandits and terrorists operating in Nigeria. The Nigerian mining industry employs several thousands in the formal and informal economy of Nigeria,” Almona said.
She said the artisanal and small-scale mining ecosystem accounts for at least 90 percent of the activities in the mining sector, from granite quarrying, limestone mining, to base metals mining, limestone mining for cement production, sand mining, non-metallic industrial inputs for the paint and pharmaceutical industry, to mining of precious metals like gold, as well as gemstones mining.
But the proposed ban by the government would drive away foreign and local investors from Nigeria’s mining sector while existing local investors who have secured loans to finance their mining projects would lose their investments for several years, she said, adding that it would also affect the government’s diversification plans into a non-oil exports-based economy.
Nigeria exported $1.75 billion worth of solid minerals between 2015 and 2020, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s economic reports within that period. The LCCI said the country risks losing this amount if the activities in the sector are banned.
“Duly licensed mining companies should be clearly differentiated and distanced from the activities of bandits and terrorists whom the National Security Council have based its proposal upon,” Almona said.
“We need to enforce all the necessary laws and policies to guarantee security of local and foreign investments in the solid minerals sector as well as ensure that investors get best returns on their investments,” she said.
The LCCI boss urged the government to empower the solid minerals and mining sector by deploying Geographic Information System (GIS), automation of application and processing of mining licences, leases and permits all through a one-stop-shop platform.
She canvassed that the Integrated Automation and Interactive Solid Minerals Portal (IAISMP) should truly be a go-to portal for real time information on the sector while the plan to build a national electronic geo-data archiving management system to be called the Nigerian Geo-Data Center at the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) should be finalised.
“We cannot afford to jeopardize the fortunes of mining in Nigeria with a blanket ban on mining activities when we should be able to isolate illegal miners and demobilize criminals from mining sites. We urge the government to reconsider ways to demobilize criminal activities from mining sites and create a safe environment where mining can thrive,” Almona said.