The federal government has reiterated its commitment to continued diversification of the economy by steadily growing other sectors, particularly the commodities trading ecosystem.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, restated the commitment when the Lagos Futures and Commodities Exchange made a presentation of Gold coin to her in Abuja at the weekend.

Ahmed expressed her pleasure at the presentation as she stated that it is one of the results of the Federal Government’s commitment in continuing to improve efforts at diversifying the economy.

“We have been trying to improve the diversification of the Nigerian economy. People say we need to diversify the economy, but the Nigerian economy is truly diversified. Our GDP today has 6.4% contribution from the oil and gas sector, so 94.6% of the Nigerian economy is from other sectors. One of the sectors that we have been trying to activate the full potentials is the mining sector.

“The mining sector today is still very small, but that is on the side of government. But in the private sector and now I am glad in the states, there is very active mining activities that is taking place. Unfortunately, until now, we have not been getting the full value of the mining activities. Mining activities have been largely artisanal, there is a lot of participants that take out our minerals without reporting it, without government or even the miners getting full value for it,” Ahmed ststed.

The minister stated that in a bid to get the full value of mining activities in the country, President Buhari approved the setting up of presidential gold mining scheme with the Solid Minerals Development Agency leading.

She disclosed that from the pilot phase of the programme in Kebbi State, artisanal miners were supported to practise better mining practices and also to off-take the minerals that they mine, and do some first level refining, then the Central Bank offtakes this and sends it out of the country for proper mining.

“The essence for us is to begin to hold our reserves in minerals like gold so that our reserves are not all in US dollars. We know what happens to US dollars and what can happen to it. We are beginning to have our reserves in gold,” she said.

She disclosed that the scheme, even though it was started by the Federal Government, has seen refineries beginning to actually work in Nigeria, adding that there is one in Ilesha, Segilola, which was the first refinery that was licensed in Nigeria.

According to Ahmed, the gold is now being mined in Nigeria, refined in Nigeria up to the point of producing bullions and then off-taken by the CBN and other organisations like the LCFE.

“They are also coming forward to facilitate the trading of gold in the commodities exchange in Nigeria. That’s what we want, we wanted to be able to activate the full circle. What was missing was the off-taking, now the off-take is being addressed and this will help to drive demand.

“Once there is demand in the market end, the producers will be encouraged to produce more, there will be more employment, we will begin to see more banks supporting this mining sector. Before now the banks were not too interested in supporting the mining sector because of the long gestation period. The investment is actually worthwhile and we will encourage these businesses to grow and produce more. I want to congratulate the LFCE for being the first of its kind in Nigeria to achieve this,” she said.

Director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Lamido Yuguda, commended the minister and the federal government on their determination to bequeath a vibrant commodities sector.

Also speaking, managing director of LCFE, Mr. Akin Akeredolu-Ale, expressed appreciation to the SEC for all the regulatory support the Commission has provided in recent times.

Akeredolu-Ale stated that Nigeria is a commodities country, but has a large potential that is untapped so far and solicited the support of the National Assembly in passing the Investments and Securities Bill which e said will bring about massive development in the sector.

“I thank the SEC for pushing the Investments Securities Bill because that is the legal and regulatory framework that is supposed to support the capital market and by default the commodities trading ecosystem.

“We are hoping that the bill is approved so that we are able to have a hold on the commodities space and the revenues that are slipping out of Nigeria. We need that bill passed to be able to function more effectively,” he added.