Everest Amaefule, Abuja
Nigeria’s gemstones are so attractive that they have become tools in the hands of smugglers and money launderers, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Bawa Bwari, has said.
Bwari said this at the opening of a two-day African Gems and Jewellery Exhibition and Seminar in Abuja on Thursday.
The minister said that the government has responded to this challenge by initiating a new policing agenda as part of a broad reform being undertaken to safeguard the nation’s solid mineral resources.
Bwari said, “As part of our mandate, the ministry is required to improve the sector’s capacity to create jobs and broaden the range of economic opportunities available to Nigerians.
“This is why we continue to support the initiatives of the organisers in using this event as a platform for creating a viable local market, and access to foreign markets for locally produced gems and jewellery.
“Ironically, the sheer beauty of our gemstones makes them easy prey for smugglers and money launderers. We have begun reforms in the sector with the hope of ensuring proper policing of the gemstone sector across the value chain from prospecting, to exploration, to mining, processing and marketing.”
He added, “The central point of our gem policy is to ensure due process in our gemstone mining and marketing activities in line with international best practices.
“We also hope to help artisans get good prices for their gemstones while boosting our Gross Domestic Policy by ensuring due repatriation of gemstone export proceeds through the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
He said that the ministry had managed to de-risk the sector by addressing issues of poor funding, lack of geological data, weak institutional capacity, limited supporting infrastructure, weak ease of doing business, and illegal mining and community challenges.
The minister added that the government would continue to make efforts to attract investors into the sector and ensure that “all mining is done in strict accordance with our laws.”
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