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10 months after launch, N732 million Nigeria’s solid minerals web portal is deficient




THE Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved 732 million to develop an interactive online portal for solid minerals in Nigeria. But after almost one year that the portal was launched, it is still static and unresponsive. Checks by The ICIR show that the so-called “one-stop shop” portal for solid minerals is useless. 

The portal was conceived to perform a variety of functions. According to the Ministry Mines and Steel Development, the portal provides credible and timely information about the sector, responds to online inquiries, generates reports and statistical data. It is supposed to perform business processes like mining licenses and mineral titles application, online payment of royalties and fees. It is also meant to have GIS mapping of mineral resources in the country.

The web portal does not perform all these functions that the ministry claims it does. It does not even provide any timely information because it was last updated in January. It does not have the functions for application of licences neither does it have function for online payment of any kind.

On different days last week, The ICIR made several calls to the three phone numbers on the website but there was no answer. The first two numbers were registered to one Abdul Majeed while the last phone number belonged to the ministry, according to phone number identification software.

Then on Thursday, The ICIR sent an inquiry on how to apply for mining licence to the only e-mail address on the website but there has not been any reply.

The contract for the Integrated Automation and Interactive Solid Minerals Portal (IAISMP) was approved on January 11, 2017 by FEC at the cost of N732, 966, 461.03. It was supposed to be completed within five months. The website was conceived to facilitate the ease of doing business in the solid mineral sector and increase revenue from the sector which has remained underdeveloped and neglected over the years.

Kayode Fayemi, the former Minister of Mines and Steel Development and now the governor-elect of Ekiti State who supervised the project, launched the portal on November 9, 2017. But almost one year after that the portal was launched, it does not do the functions it claims it does and it is not in any way different from other static websites that can be built with less than a million naira.

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The ICIR asked a web developer to assess the website and he replied thus: “That site is not fully custom developed site. Word Press was used but the developer used a child theme of Word Press to give it the feel of a custom developed site.

“It’s not a free theme of Word Press (WP) but a paid version of it. So the developer has a full control of the web pages. I can only know the exact cost if I get the cost of such theme but overall cost will not be more than 100k.”

Although this developer, who preferred his name not to be mentioned, might have undervalued the cost of the portal, there is nothing it contains that suggests it was developed to perform the functions it was originally conceived for. The ICIR found that the company, Westblue Nigeria Limited, that developed the portal used a similar theme with its own unsecured website to build the solid minerals web portal.

Yinka Oyebode, senior special assistant on media to Fayemi told The ICIR that he could not speak on the matter concerning the ministry because his boss had resigned to contest for the governorship of Ekiti which he won. He said the director of press in the ministry would be able to provide the information about the portal.

Last Thursday, the director of press in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Edwin Opara, told The ICIR that he has no idea of the solid minerals portal because he was newly posted to the ministry. He said the directors who could have provided information on the contract travelled to Australia. He, however, refused to give his phone number because he did not want to be disturbed. Opara said he  would contact the reporter when he found out about the details of the contract.

The contract for the portal was awarded to Westblue Nigeria Limited, a company registered in Nigeria in January 2012. The parent company, Westblue Consulting, which has head office in Ghana, was registered in Nigeria in May 2013.  The company was founded by Valentina Mintah, its chief executive officer, a trade facilitation consultant and Ghanaian with a base in Britain.

The general manager of the company in Nigeria, Bashir Kabir, told The ICIR that every aspect of the online portal has been completed and tested but the snag is power fluctuation at the ministry where the servers are located.

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Kabir said the company did not factor the power outage in the contract, adding that until the ministry fixed the power failures, the web portal will not be fully operational. “You can’t let the power issue destroy the huge investment,” he said. “We have completed everything that we are supposed to do but we have had problems with power and it affected the servers. We can’t roll out without the power issue being resolved.”

Curiously, the solid minerals portal is not the only ineffective online portal that the company has developed for governmental agency. The National Automotive Repository Portal which was developed by the company and launched in April 2015 is still inactive after more than three years. The portal is meant to keep information on Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of vehicles manufactured and imported into Nigeria but the portal is empty. Even the links to social media accounts embedded on the portal are unavailable.

Kabir, however, told The ICIR that the company developed and handed over the portals to the clients but did not have an agreement to manage and maintain the web portals.

Author profile

Chikezie can be reached at comeje@icirnigeria.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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