Nigeria is considering how best to certify and tap into its iron ore reserves, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo said on Tuesday, as Africa's top oil exporter continues to look for ways to diversify its economy away from its reliance on crude oil production.

Nigeria's economy, the largest in Africa, is going through its worst crisis in years because of the fall in oil prices since mid-2014. Oil receipts make up around 70 percent of national income.

The government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, has said it wants to diversify the economy by boosting agricultural, mineral and other non-energy sectors, something that previous administrations have tried in vain.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said about 70 percent of Nigeria's known iron ore deposits were yet to be proven to be viable and the government was considering options, which included working with private companies, "for certifying existing deposits". "We must be extremely ambitious in our industrialisation efforts,"

Osinbajo said during a visit to a steel plant in the western city of Ilorin, adding that Nigeria had about 2 billion metric tonnes of known iron ore reserves in total.

The vice president also said steel played an important role in the government's economic plan and that the administration wanted Nigeria to become "a net exporter of steel within the shortest possible time".