northNigeria hosts commercial quantities of lithium distributed in the states of the federation. It is extracted by artisanal miners in the states of Nassarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti and Cross River.

Lithium is replacing oil and has become very strategic across the globe, therefore Nigeria must be in full control of the entire lithium value chain by formulating policies that will control its exploration, export and extraction.

Lithium is the new oil that could significantly control global wealth and nations’ economies for decades to come, and the new economic order will be largely dictated by the ability of nations to take advantage of the emerging opportunities provided by lithium resources. .

Any foreign investment in lithium must be controlled in a way that prioritizes the political and economic interest of the country, so the current regime in which a company obtains a license and begins to extract lithium without some other control and regulation is not the best for the country.

We must be zealous and quick to develop very intentional policies that will protect this major mineral resource (lithium) as we did with oil and gas decades ago, and Nigeria should lead the way for the governments of African nations to seize this opportune moment in history.

If this is not done, it is a disservice to the nation and the African continent. If Nigeria controls local and foreign investment in lithium with patriotic fervor, it will attract enormous wealth to the country and strengthen its position in the emerging world economic order just as crude oil did.

Lithium is too strategic to be left open to unchecked exploration, especially since it is in global demand. I think lithium is the new oil in the emerging global economy.

The price of lithium has risen from $500 to $5,000 in three years.

Now, cars have migrated from hydrocarbon to battery-powered cars, also known as electric cars. So the power required by cars is batteries while lithium is the key component of batteries.

Nigeria must enter the emerging economic order marked by advances in technology made in the energy sector using lithium.

The advancement of technology shows that the world is moving towards a future where diesel and gasoline engines will be phased out and replaced by lithium battery powered cars.

When this happens, you can imagine how many lithium resources it will take to power electric vehicles that will be used around the world.

We must be ready and deliberate in developing funds for lithium exploration and exploitation in Nigeria, just like we have the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). Special purpose funds for lithium exploration and exploitation must be urgently made available to the relevant authorities to ensure that Nigeria is positioned to take its leading place in the committee of nations in the near future.

Nigeria must regulate lithium exploration and extraction, its export, processing and production of lithium-powered devices in the interest of patriotism, and Nigeria must do this in order to become the lithium hub for Africa.

We also need to be deliberate when devising a marketing strategy to help us control the lithium rush that will hit Nigeria and indeed Africa so that we can attract the results of the emerging global rush and trade regarding the lithium.

In today’s world, the oil-producing economies are the largest and most envied. If lithium is going to replace oil in the same way that electric vehicles will replace fuel, then lithium is surely the new oil.

The Chinese are here for the lithium; the Americas are here too and even the Europeans. They’re all here for Nigeria’s lithium resources. We must safeguard our future even if we want foreign investment. We need to control foreign investment so that we do not accept investments that will take away our mineral wealth while impoverishing our people and our country.

Uba Sa’idu Malami, a geologist, is president of the Solid Minerals Development Fund (SMDF)