ACCI urges Nigeria to formalise Gemstones mining

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The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to formalise Gemstones mining to  make it critical contributor to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The ACCI President, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode made the call on Thursday in Abuja at the opening of the 2019  African Gemstones and Jewellery Exhibition and Seminar (AGJES).

The 2019 AGJES, with the theme “Mines Market: Retailing Africa to the World” was organised by ACCI in collaboration with Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and Gemstone Miners and Marketers Association of Nigeria (GMMAN).

Kayode explained that Nigeria’s coloured stones were well-rated, adding that one of the major impediments to a sustained growth of the Gemstones industry was activities of artisanal miners who were in most cases foreigners.

“As major players in this business, the plight of Nigeria is worrisome. We have rich array of Gemstones in Nigeria but hardly have we mobilised the critical mass needed to maximise the huge potential in this line of business.

“This has stimulated our interest in this sector. In talking about the value chain, we have those involved in mining, processing as well as those who are cutting, polishing, warehousing and marketing these precious stones.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, the monumental progress made by other countries can be replicated here with the large deposits diversity, occurrence and the spread in coloured stones in the country.

According to analyst, cut red tourmalines can sell for over 1,000 dollars per carat in similar manner as emeralds, rubies and sapphires which Nigeria is well endowed with, are actually the most monetarily valuable gemstones,” he said.

The trade consultant said that Thailand with a population of 60 million people compared to Nigeria’s estimated 201 million employs over a  million people in its gemstone Industry.

He said that a good part of the Gemstones mining population were employed as professional cutters in Bangkok which had developed into one of the most popular international Gemstone cutting centres.

“About 200,000 Thais are also engaged as hobbyist gem-cutters who operate from their homes as a means of supplementing their income.

“All hope is, however, not lost. Myself and a cross section of players have established the GMMAN, the Gemological Institute of Nigeria (GIN) and recently, we are pioneering efforts in establishment of gemstones warehouse in Abuja.

“Government cannot do it alone. It can provide a regulatory and facilitating environment while the Organised Private Sector (OPS) drives the process.

According to the president, the event is planned to make business contacts and sign deals, showcase new trends and opportunities in the gems and jewelleries’ industry.

Hajiya Saratu Aliyu, National President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) said government’s determination to reposition the sector led to the adoption of The Road Map for the growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry  in 2016.

Aliyu said that the adoption of that Road Map by government was part of the strategy to diversify the source and improve the contributions of mining to our GDP.

She said that it was also put in place  to harness the vast mining potential of the country with focus on seven priority minerals of which Gemstones was one of the endowment.

The NACCIMA president expressed regret that the sector had been neglected for many decades.

She said in the last few years, through the 2016 Mining RoadMap Growth and Development of the sector, the industry was now receiving necessary attention in the quest to diversify the nation’s economy and harness the huge mineral deposits nationwide.

“Our commitment to development of the mining sector led us to embark on a  Mining investment Roadshow in cooperation with Nigeria’s High Commission in Australia in 2018 to advertise the sector’s potential and invite foreign investors to invest in sector,” she said.

She expressed the hope that the exhibition would spur competition and investment globally.

Mrs Jumai Oluyede, Deputy Coordinator, GMMAN and co-founder of AGJES said that the global Gemstone and jewellery industry currently was currently worth about 300 billion dollars and is projected to cross 443 billion dollars by 2020.

According Oluyede, it is a well known fact that the Nigerian economy did not benefit financially from the lucrative trade in its Gemstones.

She said that the current contribution of the solid minerals sector to GDP was about a paltry 0.3 per cent, adding that this loss of revenue was owed largely to laundering.

“It is also noteworthy to point out that Nigeria contributes about 10 per cent (1.2 billion dollars) of the total 12 billion dollars revenue generated annually by Thailand from Gemstones.

“We are loosing tremendously on all sides and it is therefore, critical to revisit our disorganised gemstones and jewellery sector and turn the tables by making Nigeria a global hub just as India has done.