Solid Minerals: FG Abandons N26.4bn World Bank-Assisted Projects

Nigeria’s quest to earn higher revenue from non-oil sector, especially solid minerals, has been dimmed following findings that the Federal Government has abandoned projects put in place with a $120 million (N26.4 billion)World Bank grant. The grant was extended to the Federal Government in 2004, specifically to develop the solid minerals sector.

Another $80 million was also expected from the global bank after the seven-year disbursement of the first tranche of $120 million. The fund, managed by the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resource Project (SMMRP), was expended on several projects, some of which are already abandoned by the Federal Government.

Although the global financial institution commended the projects put in place with the grant, recent findings by New Telegraph revealed that some of the projects, especially the ones that are not self-sustaining, are already rotting away due to Federal Government’s neglect of the entire sector.

The disbursement was done under the watch of at least three ministers of solid minerals and steel development and was ploughed into areas such as airborne survey for the generation of high resolution geological and geophysical data by funding the 56 per cent coverage of the promotion of Nigerian mineral endowment, construc-tion of a multi-million dollar laboratory in Kaduna, a training institute in Jos, erecting a word class Mining Cadastre Office, $10 million set aside for disbursement as credit to artisanal miners and mining communities, among others.

The project was regarded as the largest mining intervention programme of the World Bank, not only in Africa, but the entire world. The interest free, concessionary facility with a 35-year tenor and 10-year moratorium, had, as its objectives, increasing government’s long-term institutional and technical capacity to manage the mineral resources in a sustainable way.

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A former World Bank Director in Nigeria, Mr. Onno Ruhl, had called for proper funding of the sector, saying that the sector, being a great economic potential for the country, should have its budget included in capital expenditure instead of recurrent expenditure, to facilitate real mining projects.

The World Bank, he said, required Nigeria to provide detailed explanation on the utilisation of the $120 million and justification for the expected $80 million. Lamenting recent developments, Hon. Shehu Mahe, the Executive Secretary of the Solid Minerals Development Fund, the agency set up after SMMRP was laid to rest, revealed to our correspondent that the Federal Government was merely playing the ostrich with regard to developing the solid minerals sector.

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He said that besides the fact that some of the World Bank projects had been abandoned, the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Steel Development has also been denied access to the Natural Resource Development Fund. “This is a Federal Government’s fund established for the development of some critical sectors of the economy.

Unfortunately, since it was created only the ministries of agriculture and water resources have been able to access it. It is a project under the Ministry of Finance and the fund is domiciled in the ministry.

-newtelegraph