An official of the MCO also speaks on efforts to better regulate Nigeria’s mining sector.
With an eye to opening the nation’s mining assets to wider market appeal and expanded government revenue hauls, federal authorities at the nation’s Mining Cadastre Office (MCO) say work is currently apace for a full digital migration of the country’s mineral titles and its operational processes.
The Director-General of the agency, Obadiah Simon Nkom, who doubles as the President of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, disclosed this during a courtesy visit to the agency by a PREMIUM TIMES team.
Despite the low budget window available to the agency, the DG said their reform process was already bearing modest fruit, as the MCO helped swelled the 2019 revenue pot of the ministry, “generating 50 percent of the total revenue of the entire ministry.”
The MCO’s plan, according to him, to achieve higher 2020 returns, was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic that struck at the beginning of the year and disrupted the entire process. “But despite the COVID challenge, we were still able to make close to what we made in 2019”, he said, restraining to put numbers to his claims.
The Mining Cadastre Office, an agency under the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, is an outcome of the Federal Government’s mining sector reform programme which was implemented by Ministry of Mines and Steel Development in collaboration with the World Bank Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project. Its key remit is the management and administration of mineral titles and the maintenance of cadastral registers, cornerstones of a secure mineral rights system.
Mr Nkom said: “we have commenced a programme of converting all the work we have done in hard copies so far into e-forms, and archive them. The World Bank has started the aspect of thematic maps. These are some of the programmes we have lined up.
“In this country, we have the pipelines, restricted/protected areas, military formations, etc., we have all these areas that have towns and villages. We must be able to integrate this in the thematic map, into our system, and have them in one layer for everyone’s accessibility.”
Giving a reason for the migration, Mr Nkom said it will aid applicants’ accessibility “so that anybody can stay in the comfort of their homes from any part of the world and apply for mineral titles without coming to MCO.”
This would also change investors’ perception of the sector, he said.
While speaking on the restructuring of the agency, he said “there are instances where during restructuring you see things that might not be palatable, but it’s a transition we must go through. When we took over the office, one of our targets was to improve transparency, restore and improve the confidence of investors.”
Revocation of Mineral Titles
The MCO is also reached to the rod in his reform process with plans to revoke titles where the holders have failed to pay the prescribed fees, with Mr Nkom stressing that names of defaulters have been published prelude to a revocation order.
“Last year, we published the defaulters and revocation of titles. The effect of publishing these had some impacts. The first thing it does is, it sends some signals to those who acquire titles and keep their licenses. It creates another jittery. But the first thing we are supposed to do is, no title will be revoked without giving the person 30 days which will be sent to the registered post. We will give him/her 30 days from the day he received the letter to remedy the effect. Once it’s after the 30 days without the payment, then we seek approval from the minister to revoke the title. It means he/she has not complied with the provisions of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act.
“The essence of this is to have the syndrome of use it or lose it. It’s not about having mineral titles in the country but knowing the active mines we have,” he said.
The Publisher and CEO of PREMIUM TIMES, Dapo Olorunyomi, in his introductory message, said “the key reason for the visit was to thank Mr. Nkom and his agency for the support they gave PREMIUM TIMES last year by helping to co-host two webinars highlighting developments in the country’s mining sector.
He said the part of the capacity development mission of the news organisation “is to help journalism in Nigeria do its job better, fundamentally through training, creation of resources, development of other forms of competencies, and most importantly because we are also in a new era, the era of digital, where all the processes of doing work have profoundly changed.
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“We try to bridge that knowledge within the media. We want journalism in Nigeria to better serve the community, but we can’t do that without understanding the issues thereabout. So, we would for instance work with the ministry, helping journalists to fully understand what MCO does and all the units of the ministry.”
Speaking on the interface of the digitalization at the MCO and journalism, Mr Olorunyomi said “we want the Nigerian community, but more narrowly the journalism community to have a better acquisition of the kind of things happening here in an age where oil resources are undergoing circumstantial transition and where the minerals sector has become significant in the revenue vision of government.”
This, he added, “requires more competence journalism that helps create and leverage opportunities that serve fully serve citizens, communities, the country and the market.”