President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed that Nigeria lost about $3 billion to smuggling and illegal mining of gold between 2012b 1nd 2018.
A statement issued by Femi Adesina, his special adviser, media and publicity, the president stated this at the presentation of locally mined gold bars by the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative in Abuja.
Buharisaid improved gold mining operations in the country would generate 250,000 jobs and over $500m annually in royalties and taxes to the Federal Government.
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The statement was titled “Improved gold mining operations to generate 250,000 jobs, $500m annually in royalties, says Buhari.”
Buhari was said to have also at the presentation affirmed his regime’s commitment to the establishment of gold refineries in Nigeria.
He said the initiative would support efforts at the creation of jobs for Nigerians, diversifying the revenue base, and improving foreign exchange reserves.
The President said, ‘‘With the implementation of the PAGDMI schemes 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 realising 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.
‘‘These gold assets which will be purchased in Naira, will not only help to bolster our international reserves, it will also provide a hedge against inflation and other economic volatilities associated with foreign currencies that are held in our reserves.”
Buhari said efforts were being made to enable the setting up of gold refineries in Nigeria.
This, he said, was in addition to the potential revenue gains that will occur from mining operations,
He expressed optimism that these measures would lead to the creation of additional job opportunities across the gold value chain and also help the nation capture the additional value created from the gold refining process.
The President pledged that the government would pay close attention to measures to protect workers and the environment.
The President said the PAGMI, which was inaugurated in 2019, was well timed, considering the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy and Nigeria in particular.
He said the impact of COVID-19 and the containment measures designed to slow the spread of the virus, had led to a slowdown in global growth, which is projected to decline into negative territory for the first time since the Great Depression.
He added, ‘‘It has also led to a 40 per cent drop in crude oil prices. In Nigeria, the drop in crude oil prices has had a significant impact on government revenue, as well as on our foreign exchange earnings.
‘‘In responding to this challenge, it is therefore paramount that we strengthen our efforts at implementing policies and programmes that will enable greater diversification of the Nigerian economy.
‘‘Given our current estimated gold reserves of over 200m ounces, most of which have not been exploited, developing sustainable programmes that will catalyse increased investment in the extraction and refining of gold sourced from mines in Nigeria is indeed vital.”
Buhari explained that PAGMDI would support job creation efforts particularly for artisanal miners, by providing them with a guaranteed offtake by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He added that efforts were being made to support artisanal miners in improving the standard of the gold that would be sold to the apex bank.
‘‘The gold buying programme by the Central Bank will ensure that artisanal miners are no longer subjected to the volatility in gold prices that occurs in the absence of credible off-takers, which has often led to a significant loss in the value of gold sold by miners, as well as in encouraging illegal smuggling,’’ he added.
The CBN paid for and received an international standard but locally sourced 12.5kg gold bar (artisanally-mined in Nigeria) worth N268m for its reserves at the event.
Additional report by: Emmanuel Udom