The Federal Government is set to commence bidding process for prospective investors to explore the vast bitumen deposit in the country.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who disclosed this during a working visit to bitumen bearing communities in Agbabu area, Ondo State on Thursday and Friday, said the bidding round for licence would be for serious investors with proven work and financial plans.
Fayemi said the licence issuing process would be completed before the end of the year,. He, however assured the communities of government’s readiness to protect their interest through the right policy and regulations.
Nigeria has the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, spanning approximately 120 kilometres.
Dr Fayemi, in company of top officials of the ministry, checked samples of bitumen in Agbabu, Ilubirin and Lado. He later had interactive sessions with leaders of the communities, where he assured them of government’s support.
“We want your mineral to work for you, and we are fully ready to assist your communities to ensure that you get the best from the process.”, Fayemi told the community leaders.
The minister said the Federal Government would partner with the states, investors and the communities to ensure that the enabling environment is created.
He assured them that within the next six months massive work would commence on the bitumen project.
Explaining some of the policies that would be put in place, Fayemi said that emphasis would be placed on exploration and exploitation of the mineral.
Lamenting that about 80 percent of asphaltic materials used for road construction in the country was still being imported in spite of the vast bitumen deposit, Fayemi said government would focus on ensuring that serious investors who have proven work and financial plans are given licences.
“Priority will be given to investors that would build processing plants. The processing plants will boost local production, which will in turn will help us meet local demands and create job opportunities for our youths.”, the Minister said.
The Minister stated that the major focus of the ministry is to ensure that the contribution of the solid minerals to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) records a significant improvement from 0.3% to at least 10% in the near future.
Noting that the Mining sector has witnessed extensive reforms since 1999, which essentially crystallized around the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act of 2007, Fayemi said the country is again on the path to providing a transparent and workable regulatory and policy environment for a private sector- led mining.
Aside the regulatory frame work which are geared towards protecting local and foreign investments, Fayemi said that a lot of incentives have been put in place to encourage serious minded investors.
“The serious investors will get tax holidays and would be encouraged to bring in mining equipment duty free “, he said.
Local investors, according to the Minister, would be supported through access to funding as well as equipment leasing.
He however urged prospective investors to be prepared to play according to set rules and standards “ the ministry would surely subject activities of the investors to proper monitoring in order to ensure compliance with laid down procedures and guidelines.”, the Minister added.
The spokesman for Agbabu community, High Chief Toyin Enate, while welcoming the minister, lauded the President Mohammadu Buhari administration for its commitment to the bitumen project.
He said the minister’s decision to encourage state government to engage in mining was a positive step towards the realisation of the government’s diversification plan.