Nigeria loses about $3bn annually to illegal export of gemstones, stakeholders in the mines and steel industry have said.
The stakeholders spoke under the aegis of the African Gems and Jewellery Exhibition and Seminar at a press conference in collaboration with the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in Abuja on Tuesday.
Spokespersons of the group, Ambassador Regina Edzuwah and Mrs Jummai Oluyede, said the export of rough gemstones from Nigeria was costing the country $3bn per annum in capital flight.
Edzuwah said that for gemstones to yield the required revenue to Nigeria, they must be cut and polished locally before they were exported instead of being smuggled out of the country before value addition.
She said, “Nigeria is endowed with abundance of precious and semi-precious stones that have the possibility of fetching billions of dollars on the world market such as sapphire, ruby, aquamarine, emerald, tourmaline, topaz, garnet, amethyst, zircon amongst others.
“Experts in this field have said that copper bearing tourmalines, for instance, which is a rare form of tourmaline found in Oyo State, can fetch up to $5,000 per carat in the international market. Therefore, gemstones business is a big income generator through which the country should be making good money.
“We in AGJES wish to reiterate our desire to see the end of the era of producing and shipping out raw materials from the country and urge miners to set up processing plants and machinery in order to add value and create wealth for themselves and jobs for our teeming youth.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mrs Georgina Ehuria, said it was important to stem the tide of revenue losses in illegal export of gemstones.
She said, “Much of what has been happening is illegal. It is under the table business. What we need to do is to reverse that. If we can reverse the $3bn loss, you can see what impact gemstones can make on the nation’s economy.
Ehuria said it was for this reason that the government was supporting the efforts of AGJES, adding that the government was pushing for a mines sector that is being driven by the private sector.
In another development, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr Bawa Bwari, has said that the Federal Government was committed to de-risking the mining sector.
Bwari gave the assurance at a one-day inception meeting and presentation of project activities of the National Integrated Mineral Exploration Project.
He said that the objective of the exploration project was to generate integrated geosciences information in Greenfields and Brownfields across the country.
Bwari said, “Because government is determined in making mining one of the arrowheads of its diversification drive, we decided to embark on this exploration project to generate the sort of critical information that can spur investment in the sector.
“This project is the first of its kind in the country and it is designed along typical exploration phases with time-bound deliverables.
“This integrated exploration project embarked upon by the ministry under the Natural Resource Fund could therefore not have come at a better time than now when the world is becoming interested in our mining endowments once again.”
He added that the government would continue to do all within its power to ensure that the mining sector was more attractive to investors.