Nigeria cannot compromise solid minerals, infrastructure development – Prof Obaje

A lecturer of Geology at Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University, Lapai, Professor Nuhu George Obaje, in an interview with AHMID LAWAL says with the abundant natural resources in the country, everything should be done to harness them.

What is your view about Covid-19?
Covid-19 is real with the number of infected persons and causalities figures. The impact of the pandemic on world economy is a really great. Although the virus could be an opportunistic disease like malaria and typhoid; however, there are urgent needs to deal with the pandemic and get the vaccines as soon as possible. In this regards, Nigerian scientists and researchers are trying their best with encouragements to come up with vaccines to address the pandemic. Our research centre at the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University, other universities and people like Professor Maurice Ewu, Prof Abalaka and others are rigorously conducting research at finding solutions to the dusease. Covid-19 is not a death sentence but curable with time. For that reason, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should, as a matter of urgency, publish the names of those infected with the virus to date. This step is necessary for contact tracing purposes only and not for stigmatisation.

What is your appointment as NNPC chair in Basinal Studies all about?
As a Professor of Geology, my appointment as NNPC chair in Basinal Studies has terms of reference, job description and job specifications. Among these are research and collaboration with the NNPC and other players in the oil and gas sector, creating synergy between industry and the academia but most importantly conducting research and generating data on Nigerias frontier basins to mature these for NNPCs engagement and other investors. In doing these, we bring experts together. These frontier basins comprise the Anambra, Bida, Chad, Dahomey, Sokoto basins, the Benue Trough which has the Gongola Basin as an arm and the deep and ultra-deep offshore Niger Delta. As you are aware, with the synergy with the academia and innovative technology deployment by the NNPC, about 1 billion barrels of oil have been added to our national reserve through the Kolmani River 2 Well drilled in the Gongola Basin by NNPC. We are optimistic that these successes will continue into the other basins where Mr President has given the directives that it should be comprehensively explored.

The NNPC chair office at IBB university working with other researchers are to support the innovative engagements of NNPC in these basins with the aim of achieving our national reserve target of 40 billion barrels and four million barrels daily production in the shortest possible time. Data generated are also expected to attract prospective investors, thereby boosting the economy, generate employment, revamp and revive our refineries.

Notwithstanding all the efforts for exploring oil and gas, we still need to diversify the economy with focus on industrial agriculture, mining/solid minerals and manufacturing. Mining in particular covers all aspects including mining water, oil and solid minerals underneath the ground. All states of the federation have one mineral resource or the other which comes under the Exclusive List. For example, Zamfara state has the largest gold deposits in West Africa and further large deposits occur in Niger, Kogi and Osun states. Nasarawa, Kogi and Niger have the most diversified of solid mineral assemblages in Nigeria and possibly in Africa but our mining legislation have hampered the turning of these resources to wealth.

There were talks of gold refineries in Nigeria but no further discussions on them. Solid minerals therefore provides the ground base for industrialisation. It is therefore important for the federal government to have a second look at the legislation again, review it and relax some sections of the legislation without conflicts to national interest and security.

What is your view about Ajaokuta Steel Complex and its importance to the diversification drive of the government?
From the era of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979 till date, government has invested heavily in Ajaokuta Steel Complex. The investment committed to the complex cannot therefore be allowed to go down the drain. The network of roads at Ajaokuta,  housing estates, infrastructure, the equipment and the steel mill itself is up to 98% completed and production needs to start in earnest because we cannot do without steel. If Ajaokuta is working then Oshogbo, Aladja, Jos and Katsina Steel Rolling Mills would be operational, whether privatised or not. However, one of the innovations we are seeing now is that state governments are being paid derivation funds just as the oil producing states get on oil expliration. So this policy may shore up development and investments in the solid mineral sector.

Do you think the government is doing enough at checking insecurity and unemployment?
The insecurity of life and property in Nigeria is very high and alarming as a result of the high rate of unemployment and other factors that are all combined together. The government is trying to solve the security challenges but more still needs to be done. The private sectors play significant roles in jobs creation, so under no circumstances should such sectors be neglected. The closure, folding up of companies such as Bata, Lenard, Leventis, Textile mills, UTC, Johnholt, Paterson and Zaconis (PZ) out of Nigeria is a bad omen for Nigeria most especially the Michellin Coy that left Nigeria to Ghana. The reasons for the closures of these companies and movement to other countries are numerous including lack of infrastructure, power and electricity outages. We should fix our power supplies because companies cannot survive by running on diesel. I spent one third of my life in Germany where 80% of the working class are  in the private sector with only 10% working in government offices. It is therefore important for government to create jobs and social employment such as the N-Power currently being embarked upon by government.

As a university lecturer, what is your view about ASUU-FG misunderstanding?

I am not an active member of Academic Staff Union of Nigeria Universities (ASUU), but I know it has however contributed greatly to the growth of our educational system, our welfare comprising staff and students and national development. ASUU was instrumental to the establishment of ETF/TETFund which is the best we have now in the Nigerian tertiary education system. ASUU worked on the one-term of five-year tenure for vice chancellors. That was a great innovation. Today, we have peace on the campuses because of that policy otherwise during application for second tenure, campuses are divided along the red line and poised for war. I believe that if Nigeria as a country adopts this policy generated by ASUU, we would avert disaster. What I am saying is that government should listen to ASUU. ASUU has been a partner in progress and their ideas have propelled national progress and development.

Do you think corruption has anything to do with infrastructural deficiencies?
The lack of continuous infrastructural development and endemic corruption are some of the reasons the economy is still in comatose  despite all the efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari since assuming office.
In order to nip in the bud corruption, infrastructural deficiencies and insecurity and other social vices, the government needs to up their game, create an enduring system where job creation shall blossom. Corruption is a major problem in Nigeria today and Mr President, who is seen by all as somebody who is incorruptible should arrest and deal with corruption with all his powers and might especially those corruption cases that are pronounced, they should be dealt with urgently and timely without a witchunt. When the opposition gets to power, they should also probe the current regime because government is a continuum.

Who is Prof Obaje?
I am the director and head of Research Centre of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University, Lapai saddled with the responsibilities of research design and coordinating all research activities in the university. I also travel a lot around the world to inculcate best practices in our research designs and innovation management. I enjoy great support from my vice chancellor, Professor Abu Kasim Adamu. We are the first university to obtain the first NNPC chair in any subject as we strive for excellence in all endevours. We believe if we do well on the chair, NNPC would be encouraged to endow on other universities and subject areas. We will not disappoint them.

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