Name: Prof. Azikiwe P. Onwualu
Organisation: Raw Materials Research and Development Council
Position: Director General/CEO
1. What progress has been made to boost Nigeria's solid minerals industry?
This is a sector that has been sleeping for a very long time because Nigeria has been concentrating on oil production. Government has however taken a very bold step by opening up the sector and that is why there are opportunities for people to obtain mining licenses. A number of big players are coming in and we believe this a major breakthrough achieved by the government. Investors are encouraged to invest in the mining industry.
2. How would you describe the role of the RMRDC?
The Council was set-up to create an enabling environment for the conversion of Nigeria’s natural resources to industrial raw materials. We look at the manufacturing sector and conduct research based on its raw material requirements. We then move from the research results and establish pilot plants. Once these pilot plants are running we look to the private sector to take over the facilities. When it involves technology we cannot develop locally we work with different stakeholders to import the technology, get people to establish the industry and use that to demonstrate to investors what is possible.
3. Name one of your recent success stories.
We started a processing plant for barite in Cross River State with a private investor. He has since bought us out and is now running the project on his own. In ventures of this kind we acquire the machines and may assist with training, while the partner provides infrastructure and working capital.
4. What are the challenges facing the development of the sector?
For Nigeria to earn good money from our minerals we have to establish processing plants within the country. We have to add value to the minerals before they are being exported. One of the other challenges is that a lot of people are still worried about the security situation in Nigeria. Part of the security problems we have today is a result of the decades of military rule, but since the return to a civilian administration Nigerians have become more politically mature. People are learning that problems can be solved without engaging in militant activities.
5. What are the prospects for people investing their money in the mining sector?
The prospects are very good. Recent reforms in the banking industry are making it easy for investors to attract financing for projects. For example, we recently went to inspect the installation of a talc project in Niger State. The local bank manager of First Bank was also there and demanded to know if any additional funds where required for the project. This has led to further discussions with him.
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