The Federal Government has commenced a programme to identify and explore other mineral resources besides crude oil in Bayelsa State as part of its policy of diversifying the economy.
A team from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) was in the state, Friday, to assess and evaluate the availability of non-oil minerals and reach agreements with the state government for their development.
The RMAFC’Team on Nationwide Monitoring Exercise on Royalties led by a Director in the commission, Chief Sanyon Omiri, met with the Deputy Governor of the state, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd) to discuss modalities for the exploration.
Omiri noted that since the beginning of the economic recession, the non-oil sector accounted for 50 per cent of the monthly revenue accruing to the federation account.
He said following the implementation of the diversification policy the sector would contribute more in the nearest future.
He lamented that Bayelsa got paltry sum of N1.2million as its share of 13 per cent derivation from the non-oil sector.
“Bayelsa currently occupies the 36th position on the table of non-oil remittance to the Federation Account, base on June allocations”, he said.
According to him the state could move up to an appreciable position and increase its share of the 13% derivation from non-oil revenue, if all leakages were blocked with illegal miners captured into the tax net.
He said that the team would verify and ascertain all the mining companies, number and duration of mining leases issued to each operator, and determine means of increasing revenue generation from mining and solid mineral exploration.
He said: “We are highly endowed with many untapped mineral resources especially Bayelsa. But with this our exercise, I can assure you that we will put things in the right direction.
“Bayelsa is endowed with good sand, clay and many other resources. With this our verification, many minerals will be determined”.
In his remarks, Jonah who said the government was excited at the ongoing verification described it as a step in the right direction.
He asked the team do a thorough job, noting that if properly conducted, the exercise would provide a viable alternative source of revenue to the state.
He said that every state is endowed with mineral resources, adding that the current economic recession was biting harder because of long period of overdependence on revenues accruing from the oil sector.
He said there had been lack of political will to explore and exploit other natural endowments, including agriculture to boost the nation’s economy.
Assuring the team of the government’s support, Jonah urged its members to engage the appropriate government ministries, agencies, departments and other stakeholders in the exercise.
He said: “Yes, it is true that Bayelsa State isn’t doing well in the non-oil sector. So they (RMAFC) are going to carry out an audit of what we have because some of the non-oil mineral resources they have in mind may be here and we may not be aware.
At the federal level, the government is trying to get a consultant to work it out for the entire country.
“I’m firmly of the belief that there is no land in Nigeria that has no minerals. It depends on how you maximise the exploitation of it. So, at the end of this exercise, this the team will tell us what we have and how we can get it out from the soil.
“Just like the Federal Government, we also have interest in taxes. We have common interest, so we will certainly benefit from the exercise. But the extent of benefit is what I will not be able to define now”.
Also, the Commissioner for Information, Jonathan Obuebite, said if the team carried out their plans, it oils signal the seriousness of the Federal Government on diversification.
He said developing other non-oil sectors would further create employment and reduce the problems of joblessness in the country.
He said: “We are happy because the mission is to come and see the mineral resources we have in Bayelsa that can be explored to increase our revenue and contribute to national revenue.
“If that is done it means that Nigeria is serious now to move out of total dependence on oil. We have the oil, but just like every other nations, but we should have alternative sources of revenue.
“This, I think if properly done will lead to us having if possible 60 per cent of resources from other sources to boost our economy and grow the system. Whenever a new mineral is discovered, employment is generated too. It will also address the case of unemployment”.