THE Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN) has said that stringent loan conditions by the Bank of Industry (BOI) had frustrated miners from accessing the Federal Government’s N5 billion mining intervention fund.
Alhaji Kabir Muhammed, President of the association, said this on Thursday in Abuja when a delegation of the African Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), paid him a courtesy visit.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the BOI in August 2017 to give N5 billion intervention fund to Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners across the country.
The intervention fund was a joint venture between the BOI that provided N2.5 billion and the ministry that provided another N2.5billion.
The effort was to rejuvenate the mining sector as part of the Federal Government economic diversification plan.
The loans was supposed to be made available to certified mining industry participants at a single digit interest rate of five per cent per annum.
The aim of the intervention was also to address lack of access to funding, which was hindering artisanal and small scale mining operations in the country.
The MAN President while commending the government initiative, however, said there was need for BOI which was saddled with the responsibility of disbursing the fund to review the loan conditions, to enable miners access to it.
He added that rather than putting stringent measures in place, the bank should work out modalities to allow the association to guarantee its worthy and certified members.
“This money had been laying in the bank for three years now, and this is very unfortunate.
“There is a need for both the bank and the Federal Government to come up with a suitable formula to enable miners to access the fund, and we are ready to collaborate with both parties to achieve this.
“I am one of the earliest applicants who requested for the loan even before I became president of the association.
“I had gone to look for N100 million, but the cumbersome nature of the conditions placed by the BOI made it impossible for me to access the fund, as they kept demanding for one thing or the other.
“Only one person was able to access N90 million from the fund since it was deposited. You can imagine if at my level I cannot access such loan, what more of others,” he said.
Muhammed advised that any miner with proven identify and a site that had large deposit of gold or other mineral, which had been certified by international organisations, should be allowed to use his certificate as collateral.
He added that all that such miner needed to do, was to deposit his license and certificate in the bank and if he defaults for whatever reason, the bank could always recover the fund.
The MAN president further suggested that in the event of equipment purchase, receipt or such should also be deposited in the bank, thereby making the selling of such equipment impossible without the notice of the bank.
He said it was unfortunate that even when the association had agreed to form cooperatives as directed by the Federal Government to enable its members to access the loan, their efforts were still being frustrated by the bank.
“We have agreed to act as guarantors to our registered miners because we know their capacity.
“We have also put in place mechanism to ensure that no one diverts government fund and that equipment was bought and handed over to miners instead of giving cash.
“But this bank had been frustrating our efforts, and I don’t know what their motives are because those in the agricultural sector and other small scale industrialists had been accessing government intervention fund, so why not miners.
“If they feel we do not have the capacity and cannot develop a suitable formula where the money can reach miners, they should return it back to the Federal Government,” he said.
According to the Muhammed, until the association raised an alarm, the Federal Government was not aware that miners were yet to access the funds.
Mr Omaojor Ogedoh, Senior Programmes Officer of the NGO, who led the delegation, said the visit was to find out how the association was interfacing with the government to ensure the welfare of miners and sustainable mining in the country post-COVID-19.
NAN further recalls that Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, had earlier charged miners in the country to form viable cooperatives, to enable them to access the loan.
He said the government intended to deepen operations of the mining sector so that Nigerians could enjoy its potentials. (NAN)
– Jun. 25, 2020 @ 14:29 GMT |