The Federal Government of Nigeria recently approved the development of gemstone laboratories in the country to facilitate local certification of genuine precious stones. The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, said this during a familiarisation tour of the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), in Abuja. He also asked the management to focus on developing its capacity to meet the standard requirements of the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA).
Adegbite explained the need to train competent staff instead of outsourcing the commodity to other countries of the world. According to him, the certification and repair of faulty equipment locally would not only save foreign exchange but also generate additional revenue for Nigeria.
This new move, if properly implemented, would strengthen the federal government’s drive to diversify the Nigerian economy. It would create more business and employment opportunities, generate revenue and reduce spendings of foreign currency for Nigeria.
Nigeria has over 44 deposits of different solid minerals including gemstones in large quantity but the sector contributes less than 0.3 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation. This shows that the industry still operates below its potential and has not yet contributed its quota to the economy.
Gemstones are abundant in Nigeria and are in commercial quantity. They include tourmaline, sapphire, aquamarine, emerald, garnet, zircon, topaz, amethyst, ruby, and opal. They are mostly found in states including Nasarawa, Oyo, Kaduna, Kwara, Kogi, and Taraba,
Last December, during the African Gems and Jewelry Exhibition and Seminar(AGJES), Stakeholders in the Mining and Steel industry said that the illegal export of rough gemstones from Nigeria was costing the country $3bn per annum in capital flight. This is because there are no processing infrastructure in place. Therefore, this government endorsement would restrict the illegal exports of gemstones.
However, at the recently concluded AGJES 3rd edition in Abuja, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba said that the country could earn over $12 billion from gemstones annually if it invests in a laboratory to certify the value of the precious stone. Prof. Adesugba is the Provost of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology (BEST) Centre.
Although gemstones in Nigeria are mostly mined by smallscale miner and artisans and, there has been a clear increase in the number of young entrepreneurs venturing into this line of business. With this recent development, investment opportunities embedded in the industry like mining, trading, brokering deals, and processing would become accessible to interested individuals.
By Ishioma Emi