Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Olamilekan Adegbite, says no provision was made to combat illegal mining in the ministry’s 2023 budget.
The minister made this known on Tuesday in Abuja at a budget defence session organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Steel.
He said N37.2 billion was earmarked for the ministry and its 10 parastatal agencies for 2023.
He gave a breakdown of the money as N10.06 billion for personnel costs, N2.05 billion as overhead and N25 billion for capital expenditures.
The minister explained that there is a N21.7 billion World Bank loan tagged Multilateral and Bilateral Tied Loans for Mineral Sector Development Projects.
He said if that was taken off, the ministry would be left with only N3.26 billion for capital expenditures as the ministry had no control over the repayment of the N21.7 billion.
“We are trying to tighten security on the sophisticated activities of illegal miners through the surveillance task force in collaboration with the office of National Security Adviser, NSA.
“We do not have any budget for security or to chase illegal miners, there is nothing in our budget for that.
“We are working with the NSA, which has made a robust proposal to the president. If this proposal is acceded to, we should see some improvement in how we can deal with illegal miners in 2023,’’ he said.
He said efforts would be made to tighten security on the increasing and sophisticated activities of the illegal miners.
The minister also told the committee said that the focus of the 2023 budget is to improve the revenue generating capacity of the ministry in order to contribute to foreign exchange earnings.
Mr Adegbite said adequate attention was being given to improve health and safety of miners and to increase investment drive to attract foreign investors.
On the 2022 budget performance, the minister said the ministry generated N7.2 billion in revenue, expressing hope to hit N10 billion before the year runs out.
On the revival of the Ajaokuta Steel Company, the minister said N109 million was provided in the 2022 budget to concession the company.
He said that the process was on-going and that the ministry was working to ensure the right hands took over its operations, expressing hope that it would start running in two years’ time.
Earlier, Chairman of the committee, Rep. Abdulahi Ali, APC-Kogi, noted that Nigeria was facing a lot of economic uncertainties.
He noted also that Nigeria’s economic challenges resulted largely from over-dependence on crude oil.
Mr Ali said the committee was interested in putting measures in place to revive the Ajaokuta Steel Company and the steel sector generally in 2023.
He said the Ajaokuta steel project was conceived as a strategic industry, a job creator and a foreign exchange saver and earner.
According to him, it is envisaged that the project will generate a myriad of socio-economic benefits and increase the productive capacity of the nation through its linkages to other industrial sectors.
Mr Ali said the project was expected to provide materials for infrastructural development, technology acquisition, human capacity building, income distribution, regional development and employment generation.
He said also that the company was meant to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities critical to the diversification of the nation’s economy.
“We are witnesses that Nigeria today is facing the most uncertain economic realities and setback by unprecedented debt profile due to the nation’s over-dependence on the oil sector.
“Government must therefore think up alternative initiatives and think outside the box to harness other resources and remain economically afloat.
“The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is, therefore, key in any meaningful efforts towards achieving economic prosperity and development of the nation.
“No economy can survive without its mines and steel industry functioning optimally.
“For Nigeria to become a viable and productive economy, we must, as matter of urgency, revive our steel sector and aggressively introduce modern technologies in the mining and steel development industry,’’ Ali stressed.