Banking on the success of the N200 million fund disbursement to artisanal miners, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development may expand the programme to benefit more small scale miners.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, said this when he appeared on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) flagship Forum on Tuesday in Abuja.
Adegbite said that the over N3.2 billion mining intervention fund which was domiciled with the Bank of Industry (BOI) was an intervention by the Federal Government to boost mining activities in Nigeria.
He said that the initial fund was N2.5 billion but it had accrued interest in the bank and N200 million out of the interest was disbursed as loan to small scale and artisanal miners.
“When it was set up, it was that from a minimum of N10 million to N100 million maximum people can access at five per cent interest rates, and we have had some success story.
“What we now realised was that there were a lot of small others, artisanal miners, small scale miners, who do not even need up to N10 million, which was the minimum.
“So, they were excluded because you say minimum N10 million, maximum N100 million and you know the way banking is, if you want to take N10 million from a bank, the collateral is times two minimum.
“But there are some artisanal miners there that all they want to enhance their activity is to buy a water pump, so that they have water to wash their oars, so they can bring out what they need a bump of N500,000, that is all they need someone to buy for them.
“We excluded them by saying that the minimum you can borrow is N10 million, so we set up another scheme, under that.”
According to him, some miners could not access the fund because of the stringent conditions that the bank put in, but with the N200 million sub-fund, it could give a maximum of two million Naira to individuals and minimum of N200,000.
He, however, said that the only condition attached was to get a guarantor on Grade Level 14 in the Federal Civil Service or its equivalent in the services.
“This is to allow all those lower end people to benefit from this new scheme that I designed when I realised what was going on and it is catching on.
“A lot of these lower people who need small money are already approaching the bank for that.
“There was a programme in the past that was not very successful, so that is why this time around we gave the money to the bank.
“It is not your share of the national cake, it is something to help you, it is the cheapest fund in Nigeria today at five per cent.
“So, if it works out, yes we can expand that and maybe make more money available up to half a billion, but we need to be careful.
“The average Nigerian thinks that this is my share of the national cake, so when they go to borrow such funds they do not want to pay back.”
Meanwhile, the minister has appealed to the private sector to get involved in the mining sector, saying that active involvement of private sector in mining is fundamental to its growth to generate fund.
According to him, involving the private sector in mining is crucial to the growth of the industry, as mining is capital intensive and it has a gestation period.
He said that the ministry had included the private sector on its 2007 Amendment Act that is currently at the National Assembly.
The minister noted that the Solid Mineral Development Fund that was established by the federal government to cater for mining activities was grossly under-funded.
“It was to be funded with N200 billion but unfortunately it has not been funded adequately since it was established,” he said.
On Bitumen, Adegbite said many investors had declared interest on the mineral from all over the world.
“We are preparing for that by last quarter of the year, we are looking at, sometimes, in September when the advertisement will be out for interested investors to apply.
“We are looking at the bidding process to start by October and winner of bitumen blocs will be announced and the whole process of Bitumen mining will start,” he said.
Nigeria has large deposit of Bitumen in Lagos, Ondo, Edo and Ogun sates.