LAGOS – In its quest to reverse the setbacks in the Nigerian Solid Mineral Industry, the Nigerian Academy of Engineering (NAE) during its first 2019 Fellows Forum, offered solutions to a sound sustenance of the moribund sector for the nation’s economic development.

While explaining the theme of the forum: Sustainable Solid Mineral Development and Value Addition Chain: Quo Vadis Nigeria,” Prof Fola Lasisi, president of NAE disclosed that despite being a key source of economic development and diversification of revenue streams of the country, that the sector is faced with a lot of difficulties.

Lasisi noted that the Academy exists to provide input and leadership in national technological issues and policies at the highest possible level through contributions to science, engineering, and technological ideas in Nigeria and globally.

The first speaker, Prof John Ade-Ajayi advised that the iron and steel projects in Nigeria should be returned to the presidency under a carefully constituted National Iron and Steel Development Council and that the Non-Ferrous Metals Research Institute be established as it is done in nations where things work.

Also, he noted that the dysfunctional engineering education, particularly mining/mineral/metallurgical engineering education in Nigeria should be thoroughly addressed and that the mines office in Ilesha should be reopened and made effective to supervise mining activities in Ilesha goldfield.

“The supervisory ministry of Mines and Steel Development needs restructuring and repositioning for enhanced efficiency and effectiveness. In view of the dearth of current and competent mining engineers, mineral processing engineers and extractive metallurgical engineers in Nigeria, as a matter of urgency, there is the need for well-planned manpower development programme for the Nigerian solid mineral industry.

He added that the panacea for Nigeria’s underdevelopment is a value driven synergy among the government, academia and industry engendered by transformational leadership.

Citing the Indonesian proverb which says that when fish decays, it starts from the head, he emphasized that a godly, visionary, exemplary and strategic leadership, rather than transactional leadership is what the country needs.

The second speaker, Prof David Aderibigbe of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, UNILAG in his paper titled: Way Forward for the Iron and Steel Industry in Nigeria, maintained that for the country to industrialise, there is need for her to have a sound industrial base anchored on technological self-reliance.

Considering the coking coal challenge, he remarked that the main issues for sustainable iron and steel production at Ajaokuta and in Nigeria are those of technology choice, management of technology and the economics of operations.

“The Direct Reduction/Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) technology process which was operational for some years at the Delta Steel Company can be implemented in Ajaokuta without any significant operational stress on the foreign exchange requirement. Instead of keeping the iron and steel industry in China busy by producing steel rail products for our railway development, the bilateral agreement between Nigeria and China should ensure that most of the steel requirements are sourced from within Nigeria.

“The sustainable operation of the iron and steel industry in Nigeria has a lot of linkages to economic growth in other sectors of the economy, e.g. agriculture, defense, power, transportation, mining, oil and gas, education, manufacturing, communications etc.”

Members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), who were present at the Forum, corroborated that the mining of non-ferous materials in the country will go a long way to ease the problem of dependence on forex for importation.

They also advised that the Forum work hand in hand with some Chinese and Indian firms that have set out to establish some tertiary mining companies within the country.

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