In a country where abandoned projects are common sight in the public sector, often leading to avoidable waste of funds, the need to avoid such losses need not be overemphasised.
Project coordinator of the Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project (MinDiver), in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Engr. Sallim Salaam, while outlining the key achievements of the World Bank-supported project in boosting the contribution of the mining industry to the Nigerian economy, however, stressed the need to sustain the gains of the projects going forward.
Engr Salaam, who spoke recently at a ministerial retreat organised by the Ministry in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, also expressed a strong commitment to ensuring the sustainability of its outcomes.
One of the beneficiaries of the project’s master trainee in gemstone and jewellery production, Francis Jokah from Cross River State, and a staffer of the Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences, Jos, said the experience had been life changing but called for the sustenance of the programme in order to train up more youths in self-empowerment.
He said: “The whole experience had been very exciting. I will do whatever is necessary to impact on the industry. They (the facilitators) did everything possible to make us enjoy the skill we have acquired by giving us starter packs which will as well help train others.”
He said in this way more youths will come to benefit from the programme, even as he urged the facilitators to sustain the programme.
Consultant for the training from Projekt Consult, Joe Seagas said the programme was designed to achieve sustainable development of the gemstone and jewellery industry through two main objectives: to design implementation to develop a strategy for developing the industry and the development of the skilled workforce in designing jewellery making.
Speaking further, Engr Salaam said the MinDiver Project had, in line with its mandate, strengthened important government institutions under the Ministry, expanded economic linkages, enhanced knowledge and information infrastructure, encouraged domestic investment, and mitigated the sector’s environmental impact.
“The Project’s developmental objectives included enhancing mining information systems, formalising the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, implementing proof of concept transactions, ensuring full compliance to environmental requirements, and generating geoscientific data with a focus on making them easily accessible,” he said.
According to him, to accomplish these goals, the Project needed to create key inputs in the form of strategic frameworks and initiatives such as the geo-data acquisition activity cluster, proof of concept activity cluster, institutional strengthening and capacity building activity cluster, and sector/ecosystem capacity strengthening activity cluster.
Engr. Salaam said the Ministry, through the MinDiver Project, was supporting five strategic reform programmes critical to the growth of the minerals and metals sector in the country and the realisation of the federal government’s economic diversification agenda.
He explained that the actions were designed to boost the mining sector’s contribution to the current administration’s economic development plan to generate employment, diversify revenue sources and ensure exponential growth.
He stated that the strategic reform pillars included strengthening critical institutions to operate efficiently to attract investments, optimising revenue management, facilitating collaboration between the Federal and State Governments, and increasing economic linkages with other key sectors of the economy such as energy, critical infrastructure, manufacturing, and community livelihoods.
He said other reform pillars being supported by the Project include providing optimal access to geoscience data on advanced information infrastructure for researchers, prospective investors, and operators and creating an enabling environment that would encourage optimal access to capital and technical expertise for disciplined operations in the activities of large- scale and junior miners as well as a formalised artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector.
According to him, the last reform pillar entailed improving environmental impact through consistent environmental surveillance and green mining practices to ensure a net-positive impact of mining on the environment.
MinDiver, he said, established a transparent assessment and revenue collection system for the mining sector, established a fiscal and transparency framework for the Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF), and ensured the subjection of mining exploration and production projects to formal environmental and safety inspections in accordance with best international practices set under the Project.
Others were collecting and storing data from ASM operations, developing a mines inspectorate framework for field inspection, and monitoring exploration sites by the Mines Inspectorate Department in collaboration with other relevant agencies to ensure compliance with the law and regulations.
The Ministry and its agencies have also been trained within and outside the country under the MinDiver Project to manage, regulate, and monitor the mining sector.
Engr. Salaam noted that over 200 staff members had benefited from the Project’s onsite and online training programme at closure.
Also, he said, 41 trainees have benefited from the vocational training in jewellery and gemstone programme supported by the Project, with the graduates given start-up kits to facilitate the take-off of their businesses, adding that Batch Three of the training is ongoing, with internationally renowned experts conducting the training at a new gemstone and jewellery centre equipped by the MinDiver Project in Abuja.
He also said the renovation of the Ladi Kwali Centre was almost completed, with construction and other components almost completed.
According to him, a functional Grievance Redress Mechanism system had been established with tools distributed for effective operationalisation noting that the MinDiver Project had appointed and trained a Grievance Focal Officer.
He explained that the engagement with CSOs and other NGOs in various communities had been completed, along with designing a framework for citizen engagement.
Engr. Salaam further stated that the MinDiver Project had developed a new national mining information management system using the ASM remote sensing system, geological database system, DSS, EIMS, and the new mineral title management platform.
He said the National Geodata Centre and the ASM Remote Sensing Centre had been fully installed and were being used by the relevant agencies.
He added that the eMC+ digital software for transparent mining titles administration had been fully deployed and was now live, while progress with DSS implementation has also been sub-optimal with discussion on contract extension being finalised.
On the airborne geophysical survey of the South-western block of the country had been completed and handed over to the ministry and the National Geological Survey Agency (NGSA).
Engr. Salaam said the sustainability of MinDiver activities had become imperative to sustain the huge gains of the project after closure, and in this regard, the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) had prepared a concept note for the consideration of the Ministry.
He said the concept note sought to advise on the strategic actions required to ensure that the critical investments made by the government in the mining sector via the MinDiver Project over its six-year duration can be effectively sustained post-project closure.
According to him, a successful project was expected to build the requisite institutional capacity critical for its intended benefits to be sustained after closure, noting that it was pertinent to address these critical issues during project implementation to ensure equitable and long-term benefits of the success accomplished.
According to him, there was the need for specific policies and actions to ensure that the activities generated by the Project and the successes recorded were sustained with adequate human capacity and operational capabilities.
He explained that this could be achieved through continues manpower training for additional staff and the retainership of key experts to support a particular work or service, especially in technical fields where significant investments have been made in procuring equipment and upgrading laboratories.
He said other activities would include the maintenance of technology infrastructure and payment for the renewal of subscriptions for existing software licenses deployed during the Project, storage and disaster recovery arrangements for the critical data generated or recovered under the Project and the renewal of internet bandwidth subscriptions to meet the connectivity requirements of ongoing online services.
Others, he said, include adequate budgets for servicing existing power infrastructure, the maintenance of new technology systems and equipment installed across sector agencies during the Project, and insurance premiums on installed equipment and the latest technology infrastructure.