Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Alake: Tinubu’s dutiful Mine Boy

By Ken Ugbechie

Among the class of President Bola Tinubu’s ministers and appointees, Dele Alake, the minister of Solid Minerals, stands out, holding up a redemptive banner. Dr. Alake is not an engineer. He’s a broad-spectrum journalist and administrator, having crisscrossed the labyrinthine landscape of broadcast, print journalism and public communication. Professionally rounded and fit. But nobody expected his deployment as the foreman of the Solid Minerals ministry. Yet, in his barely 10 months on the job, he has embraced his responsibilities with rare zeal, thorough understanding and a sense of positive militancy which his office demands at this time.

Nigeria remains one of the most solid minerals resourced-countries in the world with all 36 states and Abuja housing globally sought-after minerals in commercial deposits. Conservative estimates place the solid minerals value in the country at over $700 billion. In fact, preliminary reports by a German firm, GeoScan, put the minerals worth of the nation at $750 billion.

Even this humungous amount is touted by some experts as below the actual cumulative value. Now, compare this with the average contribution of solid minerals to the nation’s GDP. The Nigerian government generated a mere N193. 59 billion from the solid minerals sector in 2021, an increase of N60. 32 billion or 51.89 per cent growth when compared to the 2020 revenue of N116.9. These figures only show that the government is barely scratching the surface.

And how about this? Nigeria loses an average of $9 billion annually in the mining sector to illegal mining, theft and plain negligence. Because past Nigerian governments looked away from mining, depending mainly on petro-dollar, artisans and a horde of foreign crooks ploughed their proboscis into the nation’s subsoil excavating lithium, diamond, gold, bauxite, kaolin, gypsium, lead/zinc, lignite, uranium, limestone, columbite and just about any imaginable mineral all of which occur in huge deposits in Nigeria. The Chinese are the major culprits and chief promoters of illegal mining in Nigeria. They do so in cahoots with Nigerians, some traditional rulers, some highly placed individuals and some ordinary, poverty-beaten citizens who are recruited for peanuts as hewers of wood in the illicit mining business. What’s even curiouser in the illegal mining chain is that bandits and terrorists from within Nigeria and neighbouring African countries have found the illicit mining business a deal too juicy to ignore. They, too, have pushed their big foot into the mushy mining market.

Now, the game is up. A Daniel has come to judgment. An Alake is in town and the tribe of crooks and illegal miners are getting the heat. To counter the activities of the illegal miners and mitigate sundry losses in the solid minerals sector, Alake launched Mining Marshals, a quasi-military security outfit dedicated to the surveillance of mining activities. The concept of Mining Marshals is a novelty and represents a pragmatic shift in the manner the Nigerian government is taking the business of mining. So far, the Marshals have brought order to the sector, making arrests and instilling a sense of responsibility on actors in the mining space.

Mining is big business. If in doubt, consider the following stats. The revenue of the top 40 global mining companies was a record $943 billion in 2022. This is a market projected to crest $2.34 trillion this year. Again this: Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe (South Africa’s Mine Boy), valued at $3 billion (Forbes), and first black billionaire in South Africa became a globally certified billionaire through his interests in mining. Motsepe is in good company. He’s part of a privileged club of billionaire miners and steel entrepreneurs who raked dollars as dust just by snorting into the multi-layered earth. Just consider this team: Igor Altushkin, net worth: $4.6 billion; Xiang Guangda, net worth: $4.8 billion; Gianfelice Rocca, net worth: $5.3 billion; Paolo Rocca, net worth: $5.3 billion; Alexander Abramov, net worth: $6.4 billion; Agoes Projosasmito, net worth: $6.5 billion. The list of billionaire miners and steel gurus has big names like Vladimir Potanin flaunting a net worth of $23.7 billion and Alexey Mordashov with a net worth of $25.4 billion. Note that no Nigerian ever made billions of dollars from mining despite the preponderance of solid minerals in the country. This is largely because the sector was left unorganized and loosely regulated for a long time. This explains, very vividly, the value that Alake has brought to this critical non-oil sector. In the real sense of economic diversification, what Alake is doing in the mining sector is the best thing that has ever happened in that sector since Independence. Getting artisanal miners to form cooperative societies and ensuring that miners add significant local content value to their operations marks a new order.

Triggering legislative process for the establishment of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Corporation already underway in the National Assembly is yet another Alake masterstroke. Setting up a corporation will help strip the mining sector of needless bureaucracy.

The minister explains it most succinctly: “We are working with consultants to ensure the smooth emergence of a corporation which will be private sector-driven. We are looking at a corporation with a structure that has 50% equity for the private sector; 25% for members of the public; 25% for the federal government. Our vision is to erect private sector-led enduring structures for the corporation that will foster efficiency, outlive the present administration, and consequently wean it from future government interference.”

No doubt, Alake has evoked public consciousness and awareness in mining. But by far, what is generally considered his greatest achievement in the sector is the birthing of a culture of rules of engagement. There is now a defined marker between legal and illegal mining. For the first time in the history of mining, the nation’s security apparatchik now train their surveillance antennae on the mining sector. Arrests of illegal miners are being made almost every week and the Chinese have been a recurring decimal in the illicit equation. China has huge deposits of solid minerals and a top exporter of such, but illegal mining in China is prohibited, indeed unthinkable among the citizens, let alone foreigners. But the same Chinese, some illegal migrants without proper documentation, are in all parts of Nigeria shoveling Nigeria’s solid minerals into bags and boxes for export, hitherto unchallenged. Any patriotic Nigerian should be proud of Alake’s zeal and devotion to duty.

I wager that Alake is succeeding because he’s a journalist; a fraternity of professionals that never fails. Journalists, Nigerian journalists, plucked out of their original beats to other stations of life, never fail. Alake is Nigeria’s latest Mine Boy and he’s already succeeding where other professionals failed in the past. His job is tough and risky. He once said his life was under threat. It’s expected. The illegal merchants of Nigeria’s solid minerals will not just walk away from a man who has come to take away their ‘bread.’ They will fight back with propaganda, physical weapons, even with spiritual missiles. But the nation’s Mine Boy need not worry. When the path of a man is paved with fairness and common good for society, both the heavens and the earth rise for his protection. One of Tinubu’s best performing ministers is protected.

What's your reaction?
0Love It!0Do Better!
Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment

This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives

Purchase Now