Capital Flight: Citizens must participate in sector – Kalshingi

Dr-Z.-S.-KarshiDr. Zakari Saraki Kalshingi is the founder and Chief Executive of Z. S. Karshi Nigeria Limited, a Gombe-based private sector organisation operating in the quarrying sector of the Nigerian economy. Kalshingi, who has been in quarrying business since 1975 calls for the greater participation of youth in the sector in order to end the huge capital flight caused by foreigner-domination of the quarrying and mining sector in Nigeria. Popularly known as ‘Wood Doctor,’  he challenged “citizen-youth to urgently learn the nuances of the quarrying business, and allthat the foreigners knows which made them employers of Nigerians in Nigeria”, in order for citizens to lead the sector in the near future. He spoke with FRANCIS ADINOYI KADIRI in Abuja
When did you get your first quarrying license?
My first quarrying license, not mining, was granted in 1975, and I’m still in the sector till date. It was granted for operation in Jos, Plateau state which was then the headquarters of the Northern Area Inspectorate Office. The headquarterslater moved to Lagos, it is now Abuja.
How did the policy of indigenization affect the development of the Nigerian mining sector, and how will you describe the relationship between host communities and quarry operators?
Let me start by saying that based on the experience I have acquired over time, the quarrying business has continued to flourish throughout this country. I believe that it is a trade for all, and no community will stop an explorer from seeking to gain from the minerals in the community. So as far as I’m concerned, the relationship between quarry owners and the quarry operators has been good.
However, I’m not denying the fact that there is problem; but the problem is not necessarily between the operators and their host communities. Rather, the problem is the dearth of knowledge about what it takes to successfully operate in the quarrying sector. What I want to emphasize is the need for people to acquire sufficient knowledge before venturing into quarrying.

What key areas would you say there is the most need for knowledge acquisition on the part of prospective operators?
They should ask: “Where are the raw materials? Who should I talk to? When should I start quarrying? What should I put in place? And generally, they should ask ‘how do I do the business?’
If people realize and understand their rights, and follow the laid down rules and regulations of quarrying and mining, there would be no problem. It is sad that in the nineteen northern states of Nigeria, even in Plateau state, the indigenes are nearly illiterates when it comes to quarrying or mining activities.

What is your advice to upcoming quarry operators on how they can consolidate on the gains of quarrying in Nigeria?
As for me, only the medical sector can boast of having the same capability with the quarrying sector, in fact, the quarrying and mining sectors may even have more potentials than the medical sector. I say this because nobody can work as a quarry operator or as a miner to regret. I am a living example of the economic and social potentials of the mining and quarrying sector. I repeat that unless operators misuse their opportunities, they will have no regrets. So my advice is that they should operate in the sector with a high sense of responsibility. Quarrying is a good business, it is a holy business, it is a perfect business,and operators will surely gain from it if they are responsible.

What is your advice to young people?
The young people, or prospective quarry operators and miners should learn the nuances of the industry before they venture into it. They should not hesitate to ask forerunners what steps to take in order to ensure success.
Foreigners should not be allowed to unjustly exploit our resources especially when Nigeria has qualified personnel who are citizens, or when citizens can acquire the knowledge needed.
I want young citizens to ignore the sufferings and pains associated with starting a quarrying business. They need to get involved in the sector because quarrying and mining is a sector of the Nigerian economy that is capable of developing the country. Quarrying and mining have significantly contributed to the economic development of our country, Nigeria.

What is your opinion on the influx of Chinese investors into the mining and quarrying sectors of Nigerian economy?
The influx of foreigners into Nigeria for mining and quarrying is not about Chinese alone, there are other nationals. The sad fact is that it is not easy to find indigenous quarry owners or miners who operate the sector in Nigeria. This is because Nigerians simply prefer to buy and sell the products, with an aim to make quickly make profit.Unfortunately, a lot more involvement is required if you will make substantial profits in the quarrying and mining sectors: until you get more involved and work a lot harder, you will hardly make large scale profit.
So I want to tell everybody, I repeat everybody, that inviting foreigners to our country for the purpose of investing in the sector is not in the best interest of theNigerian people and economy. It is better for foreigners to come and work for us, rather than we working for them. They should be employed by us; Nigerian citizens should not be the ones employed by foreigners.

Please give a brief example to illustrate your point?
In road construction, the contractors are indigenes, the machineries were bought from here in Nigeria, the citizens are the operators, and even the raw materials are gotten from our country. Out of the construction of the road, the foreigners use to take away eighty-five to eighty-seven percent of the amount, while they give us 15% alongside the labour they pay us. So you can see that Nigeria loses so much. The same situation happens in mining sector. Had it been we employed them, it would have been the other way round.
So young Nigerians must learn from these facts and ensure that they displace the foreigners in the scheme of operations in the sectors in Nigeria. If they are able to take over the role of foreigners, it will greatly boost our economy, because it will stop the huge flight of profits going to foreign companies.

What is your independent assessment of the performance of the government in order to address the problem?
Please for some reasons best known to me, I won’t answer that question. I want to keep my assessment a personal secrete. The government can assess itself, not me.

How would you describe the degree of participation of young people in the quarrying sector?

The participation of young Nigerians is low because they do not understand how the sector operates; they don’t know the rules of profit in the quarrying and mining sector. The sector is not like others sectors: it is not about getting an air conditioned office with a table and chair, and messengers at your beck and call. Rather, it is about stones and earth; it is about solid minerals and about going to the locations where the minerals are. So our young men should stop dreaming of wealth unless they are ready to go for it. They must work hard in order to become masters of the sector; otherwise the sector will be taken over by foreigners at a great economic disadvantage to Nigeria.
It is painful that a lot of Nigerian graduates chose the path of office jobs while their Nation’s resources are been unfairly exploited by foreigners.
But you are aware of the difficulties associated with starting mining or quarrying business like the huge capital involved.
How do you think prospective Nigerian miners can overcome it?

Any serious minded entrepreneur can start a small scale quarrying business and subsequently develop it into a large scale business. You don’t need all the machines to begin, you can start small. If you want to start a count, you will begin with ‘number one’. We have to tell ourselves the truth. So those who are serious can look within; they don’t need all the loans, partnerships and financial interventions before they can start something. It is sometimes risky to go into partnership with foreigners because they can take over the business. So they should work hard and cooperate with the home government.

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