I hardly pity us Nigerians. I’ve had my head deep in data for some months now and on Friday, I was in a federal mining office and I found myself telling the officials that it would have been strange if we were not suffering. Nature would have been violated.Look at coal, for example. All the states in the Niger-Benue trough have coal. The belt spreads westwards around Ondo where it has turned to bitumen, all the way to Seme. As it enters Delta state, it is more of lignite and then crude oil further downstream. The biggest fields in Enugu, Anambra basin, Kogi and Gombe have about 650 million tons of proven reserve and estimated volume of 2.3billion tons. Now, that is enough coal to fire power stations and light up Nigeria 24/7 for centuries. But for now, except probably in Ashaka-Cem, Nigerian coal does not light a single bulb. Coal states like Kogi, Venue or Enugu, though they can, do not have captive power plants that can gassify coal and use the product to fire generators even on a small scale. You can at least light up the state secretariat that way. The ash from the coal is used in making building bricks using the extrusion technology. Nobody is doing this, everybody wants to warm their hands with their butts and wait for handouts from crude oil JV arrangements.
Nigerian coal is categorised as coking, that is if burnt without air, it turns to coke. When you mention coke, the metallurgical industry listens: the world listens, for coke is used in oxidising impurities out of iron ore to produce steel, the spine of industrialization.
But virtually be nobody mines Nigeria’s coal, except for some flashes of activities around now. Three years ago, Dangote had to import coal from South Africa to fire his steam generators. (Factories generate steam mainly to power their boilers and for several other heat applications). He brought in about 30,000 tonnes. Our local coal production is so hamstrung that right now, it costs twice the international price to buy coal locally! Yet this same coal is the desire of Europe because of its low sulphur content. (sulphur in coal is oxidised to SO2 and dissolves in rainwater to form sulphuric acid which is bad for agriculture, at least). But so much for coal.
This week I want to study ‘Bill Clinton’s’ AGOA document all over. AGOA is an African definitive door into the American economy and when you use that door, you will see that Africa is not a beggar continent. The people are only largely in a poor frame of mind and are distracted by foolish adversarial politics which sap the strength of their young and fill their minds with ashes where there could have been innovation and ideas for wealth creation. We need to be busy exporting to feed American consumption. Look at coffee, I doubt if we are sending up to a hundred kilograms out of Nigeria anymore. We have left it for Uganda and Kenya. Cocoa price is increasing steadily mostly because more people in India and China are being lifted out of poverty and are coming into the income bracket of those who can eat chocolate – ‘Food of the Gods'(theo-broma). Yet plantations are ageing and shrinking in Nigeria. I think these are the issues before us Nigerians today, not endless arguments over which politician is better dressed than the other. There is so much to do and to prosper at that Nigerians really should have no time to waste. Our present agony is a normal signal to our brains from socioeconomic receptors, alerting us to incredible opportunities strewn around us, goading us so we can wake up and do what is right and take our place in the world. If we do not, then it will become a curse that will devour the majority in the land.