One of the promises and rhetoric of successive administrations is to diversify the revenue base of the economy. Since crude oil was discovered in Nigeria, it has remained the chief earner for the country which sadly became a mono dependent economy. Agriculture that used to be the mainstay of the economy in the country collapsed.
Not a few Nigerians would recall with nostalgia the groundnut pyramids in Kano, the cocoa plantations in the Southwest as well as the cotton farms, among other agric products the country once boast of. Everything was abandoned for oil.
When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, his administration’s plank was hinged on reviving the economy, combating insecurity and fighting corruption. There is no gainsaying that President Buhari has made tremendous progress in reviving the economy, specifically in the diversification agenda.
First, the anchors borrowers programme anchored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been a huge success. Nigeria is inching towards becoming self sufficient in rice production. Everywhere you turn to; you are greeted with made- in -Nigeria rice.
States are falling over each other to produce and package the best rice for the market. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, states and individuals are sharing rice to people and all the rice being shared are made-in-Nigeria rice which. This is a major achievement of the Buhari administration.
This week, the president scored another feather to his diversification nest when he unveiled what Nigeria produced for the first time ever in June 2020: artisanally-mined gold that has been processed and refined according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) standards required for the use of gold as a reserve instrument by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
This means that the CBN will be purchasing gold that has been mined, processed and refined under the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative for use as part of Nigeria’s external reserves.
An elated President Buhari said improved gold mining operations in the country would generate no fewer than 250,000 jobs and over $500m annually in royalties and taxes to the federal government.
Speaking on Thursday at the official presentation of locally mined gold bars by the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMDI), the president also reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to establish gold refineries in Nigeria.
A statement by his special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying this laudable initiative would support efforts at creation of jobs for Nigerians, diversifying the revenue base, and improving foreign exchange reserves.
Reiterating the determination of the federal government to combat illegal mining activities, the president expressed concern that Nigeria lost close to $3billion from 2012 – 2018 due to illegal smuggling of gold.
Buhari stated: “With the implementation of the PAGDMI scheme which will result in the set-up of accredited gold buying centres across key mining areas, artisanal miners and SMEs engaged in mining will be able to capture the value of their work.
“These operations will help in diversifying our revenue base. The sale of gold by artisanal miners and SMEs at accredited centres will help the government in realizing royalties and taxes from the sale of these assets.
“These developments will also help in improving our foreign reserves by enabling the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase the amount of gold in its reserves.”
During her briefing, executive secretary, solid minerals development fund, Fatima Shinkafi, said with the launch, the vision was now established for the country because she now knows where she is going.
She said, “We have started a good journey towards improving the economy and we are moving at a very fast speed.
“I hope that this will translate into a better life, most importantly for the households that we intend to impact in terms of making better standards of living for individual families that we are supporting directly and indirectly with the artisanal miners.
“Also, it is very important that I mention that the private sector should not feel that this is going to crowd them out because government intends to have that persona in terms of our project.
“So, this is supposed to encourage private-sector-led investment. They have a space to participate in PAGMI and the laws and regulations are there. We will sensitize people together with the Ministry and the States, who have been very supportive as well. So in terms of what next, we hope to expand this and make the success of this pilot even bigger than this.”