The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake, has paid a maiden visit to agencies under the ministry, canvassing reforms and adherence to due process in line with the Renewed Hope agenda of the Tinubu administration.
Speaking at his first port of call, the Mining Cadastral Office (MCO), the Minister in a statement issued by his Spokesman, Segun Tomori in Abuja on Wednesday lauded efforts of the agency as the custodian of mineral titles, stressing the need to do more in addressing perceived inadequacies, emphasizing that the perception of progress in the mining sector is contingent on the activity or inactivity of the MCO.
In his welcome address, the Director-General of MCO, Engr. Obadiah Nkom expressed delight in being the first agency to host the Minister.
Restating the functions of the agency as the issuer of mining licenses, he revealed the MCO moved in 2022 to digitize its operations through migration to an online platform called Electronic Mining Cadastral System.
According to him, though the new platform led to a significant number of applications, he admitted some challenges such as delays in processing applications as a result of backlogs from the old system.
Engr. Nkom assured that efforts are ongoing to fine-tune the processes and make it more efficient in collaboration with World Bank assisted Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification, MinDiver.
Alake in his response, charged the agency to improve on its productivity, emphasizing that whatever infractions committed by MCO has a smearing effect on the ministry, as it is the major agency that interfaces with the public.
“The public puts this agency in the prism of the entire ministry. Since I assumed office, 90% of all issues that have come to my table on the entire solid mineral activities have been connected to the MCO, whether complaints, commendations, infractions, or otherwise. The issues around multiplicity or duplicity of licenses and perceived underhand dealings traceable to the agency must be addressed. The perception must change. We will not hesitate to wield the big stick where necessary, If the agency does not reform itself,” Dr. Alake asserted.
At the Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), the Director-General, Dr. Abdulrasak Garba whilst welcoming the Minister revealed that the agency has been pivotal to the generation of geosciences information for the development of the mining sector in line with its mandate.
He also said the NGSA has been in charge of the production of geological, geophysical, and geochemical maps of Nigeria, amongst other functions.
Dr. Garba cited funding constraints as a challenge, appealing for the Minister’s intervention.
Dr. Alake in his remarks said that the functions of NGSA, asides from the mining sector cuts across all sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, industrial development, stressing it is akin to the foundation of developmental efforts of any nation.
“I must say you are doing a good job generating a lot of relevant data that are critical for informed decisions by decision makers, entrepreneurs in all fields. I have gone through the literature submitted during my initial briefing, and I can see at a glance the functions that you do and I am quite glad that you have been living up to the billing and performing quite effectively but there is always room for improvement. These days of paucity of funds, like you mentioned, it becomes imperative that we become genius of our creative endeavours. We must task ourselves on how to become independent. I see no reason why NGSA cannot be self-sustaining because what you generate is in demand”, the Minister added.
At his last port of call, the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG), Alake, in his address to the Registrar, Prof. Zacheus Opafunsho and his management team likened the agency to a quasi-academic institute in view of its role of accrediting and certifying mining professionals, noting COMEG is assisting to ensure quality control in the mineral sector.
On funding challenges, the Minister assured of efforts to ensure the agency is captured in the budgetary allocation of the coming fiscal year but also urged the agency to look inwards.
“While we do our own bit of ensuring you have budgetary provisions, it can never be enough. My advice is to be creative. Seat down with members of your team and think out of the box. One way is increasing your membership fees. Whoever does not pay, you have a restriction on them. On our own part, and henceforth, any report from the extractive industry or mining engineers that does not contain the COMEG stamp should not even be brought to my attention”, the Minister affirmed.