Six years ago, just after taking office, Governor Ayade made a very strong case for the abundant mineral resources in our State during a visit by the Minister of Solid Minerals to Peregrino House in Calabar, and shortly after, the Cross River State Ministry of Solid Minerals obtained exploration licenses for mineral resources from the federal government. The licenses include a quarry lease for granite, an exploration license for limestone, clay, and shale as well as a reconnaissance permit.
That deft move by Governor Ayade was and still remains a huge milestone because the Mineral Resources Act 2007 vests the total control and appropriation of mineral resources on the federal government, yet the Land Use Act says the Governor holds the land in trust for his people. Getting the mining licenses was therefore a massive opening for our State to directly participate in the exploration of our natural endowment. Governor Ayade immediately admitted afterward that financing was the next challenge and called for patience. He said the next step was the sourcing and provision of financing for exploration in his bid to diversify the State economy.
The Governor pushed again and in February 2021, the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development announced that an artisanal and small-scale mineral processing cluster will be established in Cross River State and will be completed within six months. The Minister of State, Uche Ogar, disclosed this in Calabar while he was receiving title documents for a five-hectare land donated by the Cross River State government in Yala LGA for the project.
The choice of Cross River State for the siting of the cluster project for barite value chain development was predicated on the fact that the state is endowed with large commercial deposits of the mineral. Barite deposit occurrences in Cross River State are mainly around Obubra through to Yala Local Government Area which informed the siting of the cluster project in Yala. Under the project, the Federal Government intended to embark on infrastructural development within the cluster area such as a barite processing plant, mining equipment leasing bay, training center, warehouse, and office complex among other amenities.
The National Bureau of Statistics aggregate production of mineral products in Nigeria peaked at 89.48 million tonnes in 2021 with Ogun, Kogi, and Cross River States recording the highest output. A breakdown of State profile analysis showed Ogun recorded the highest production in 2021 with 32.04 million tons, followed by Kogi with 18.40 million tonnes and Cross River with 11.64 million tonnes.
Till date, that project is in limbo. It has been overtaken by politicking and nothing is been heard about it.
The second project was announced in February 2017. The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and Cross River State launched a waste-to-wealth program in Calabar. The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, laid the foundation for a plant to process waste-to-wealth at the Idundu Industrial Layout in Calabar and said the Calabar site was the pilot project. Governor Ayade noted on the occasion that the project would help in the production of biogas, organic waste, and feeds for aquatic culture in the State.
These are two well-thought-out but pending or stagnated or siphoned federal projects designated for our State already. Whoever is going or returning to the National Assembly from the State should get a small team to take pens and papers and ask these questions:
- How can the Mineral Resources Act 2007 be amended to give states increased stake and access to their mineral resources? This will lead to the drafting of an amended bill for that member.
- What is my strategy for engaging with lawmakers from Ogun, Kogi, and other mineral resources-rich states to achieve this goal based on shared interest? This collaboration based on shared interest across several states will create the robust and necessary initial buy-in for the amended bill.
- What is the oversight intervention required to push through with the federal ministry of mines and minerals to make sure that the mineral processing cluster that was to be established in six months in Yala returns immediately? Who did what and who did not do what and what was left to be done on the part of our state or FG? Who is in the NASS committee that oversights the Ministry of Mineral Resources or any other relevant committee that needs to be engaged and lobbied to ensure every bottleneck is cleared for the return of the project? This may lead to increased appropriation to the ministry to fast-track the project. This will reveal the reasons why the project was stalled and also provide an opportunity for an effective oversight function.
- Question 3 is applicable to the waste-to-wealth program of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Same questions need to be asked with adequate follow-up.
I cannot overemphasize the impact that these two projects and their value chain will unleash on the state economy and job creation if executed. But like most things associated with our Governor, he starts on a very promising note and then blows the expectations away in no time. Indeed, Governor Ayade may be like former Super Eagles player, Pius Ikedia who skillfully dribbles everyone with mastery until he enters the 18-yard box and wastes the ball without scoring; it is now time for others on the pitch with him to assist him to knock these loose balls into the net. This will not stop anyone from buying the usual okada and wrappers for distribution back home. It will only improve the quality of representation that the state will be getting from the next set of National Assembly members. I am only making suggestions since I am not running for any election.
Citizen Agba Jalingo is the Publisher of CrossRiverWatch and a rights activist, a Cross Riverian, and writes in from Lagos.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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