Arc Olamilekan Adegbite Mines and Steel development Minister
The Federal Government on Tuesday announced the approval of thirteen loan applications worth N1.08billion for artisanal and small scale miners in the country.
Mines and Steel Development Minister, Architect Olamilekan Adegbite disclosed this at the opening of the Artisinal and Small Scale mining Support Fund workshop organized by the Ministry in collaboration with the Bank of Industry(BOI) in Abuja.
“As at September 30, 2020 a total of 138 applications totaling N14. 59 billion was received by the Fund and are at various stages of processing. So far 13 loan applications totaling N1.08 billion have been approved under the fund. Out of this, the sum of N311 million has been disbursed as at September 30, 2020”, he said.
According to him, the Nigerian Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASM) Financing Support Fund was established in 2017 by the ministry in collaboration with Bank of Industry, stressing that the ministry made available N2.5 billion, while the BOI matched it with another N2.5 billion counterpart funding, making a total of N5 billion.
The Minister noted that the disbursement so far was low when compared to the total application, largely because applicants have failed to meet the necessary but stringent requirements stipulated by the bank.
He however said the Ministry was working assiduously to ensure that the difficulties inherent in accessing the funds are removed, as they are developing a unique and favourable template for the disbursement of the fund, which include equipment- leasing and Hire- Purchase Loan Facility among others.
He further said that one of the core pillars of present administration’s economic policy is the repositioning of the Mining sector as a way of diversifying the economy to create wealth and jobs, to increase contribution to GDP, and expand the range of economic opportunities available to Nigerians.
In achieving these goals, he said the administration initiated a slew of reforms to reposition the Minerals and Metals Sector for sustainable growth and development.
“One of the significant reform strategies was the development of a Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry, to unleash the enormous potential in the sector and to guide the investment decisions of the Ministry over the next two decades. The Roadmap was graciously approved by FEC on 31st August, 2016 for implementation, and the benefits are coming almost every day”.
The Minister also said the mining in Nigeria is still largely artisanal based, which is why the Ministry created a department called Artisanal and Small-scale Mining, to provide institutional support for artisanal miners who form the bulk of the operators and manpower in the sector.
Earlier in her address at the occasion, Ms. Olayinka Mubarak who represented the Bank of Industry (BOI) charged the miners to meet the requirements, as according to her, “the first few encounters we had were not pleasant.”
She said that many of the initial loan applicants did not meet the requirements expected of beneficiaries to access the loan.
“The money is a loan, not a grant. If the miners don’t repay the loan the BOI will have to deep hands into its own account and pay it back to the federal government. Where will you see money at 5 percent ?
“By the time you take the loans and you pay back, we will be able to give you more and give loans to more people. Even the commercial banks will give money to miners, when they see that the loans given by the BOI have been re-paid.
“It is our job to support you but the financial industry will not support you if you are not sincere. If we give you a loan and after some time they call you and the phone will be switched-off and they go to your site and you are no more there, how can the financial sector support you?”
Ms. Mubarak said that the BOI, in collaboration with the federal government was ready to have a meeting point with the miners in its determination to re-activate the sector, in the diversification efforts of the present administration.
She disclosed that while some miners were complaining about the loan application requirements, serious minded-miners were already accessing the funds. She said that a particular miner had not only obtained the loan but had also re-paid in full by September and has been encouraged to apply for another loan.