From Lateef Taiwo
The Executive Secretary, ES, of the Nigerian Solid Minerals Development Fund, SMDF, Hajiya Fatima Shinkafi, has stated that the reports recently carried by a section of the media that the Fund was involved in the sponsorship of the 2015 elections and the African Cup of Nations were unfounded and misleading .
The SMDF was established way back in 2002 to pursue investments that would de-risk the Nigerian mining sector to attract investors and boost the economic development and diversification of the Nigerian economy.
However reports published in some dailies ( not national trail), recently indicated that out of the resources made available to it between 2013 and 2014, N738.7 billion and $3 million respectively “had been illegally disbursed from the fund for extraneous expenses, including the 2015 elections, the African Nations Cup” as well as roads and drainage rehabilitation in some states.
But speaking to newsmen on the sideline of the Presentation and Unveiling of the 2021 Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s, NEITI’s, Solid Minerals Industry Report in Abuja on Monday, the SMDF boss said she herself was surprise because the report was even news to her.
Debunking the reports erroneous reportage, said the SMDF never funded the African Cup of Nation or election as claimed, and could not have done so because the agency was just capitalised barely a year ago since it was set up.
“This is news to me. I liked football. I like football. But I’ve never funded the African Cup of Nations. I’ve never funded that any of those things. I think it was a committee report they were quoting. The functions of the Solid Minerals Development Fund is totally different from that of Natural Resource Development Fund, NRDF. I can understand how the two can be mistaken for each other. But we’re not that fund and we’ve never ever funded anything like the African Cup of Nations.
“As a matter of fact, the first time ever, that the fund has been capitalised was last year around May. So we didn’t even have capital at the time, hence it wouldn’t have been us,” Shinkafi explained.
According to her, even if there were any abuse of the NRDF, they must have been before the immediate past and current administrations.
Speaking to the 7-point agenda unveiled on Sunday in Abuja with a target of 50% GDP increase by the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dele Alake, the SMDF manager said it is a tall order challenging all stakeholders in the sector to put their hands on the plough and step up their game for the development of the sector towards achieving the mandate.
“And I think that when you set the bar high, you go for the highest possibility and achievement. Now, definitely, more can be done than is currently contributed to GDP from the sector. And I think with the measures that are in place now, we can make it even if it’s not 100 per cent,” she said.
On the possibility of the establishment of a state owned company as proposed by the Minister conflicting in role with the SMDF, the ES said there nothing conflicting in their roles.
“We’re actually very excited about that announcement. The equivalent of your question is: Does the PTDF conflict with NNPC? It doesn’t. We have distinct roles and mandates, and we will actually reinforce and support that cooperation,” she said.
Congratulating NEITI for the report which, according to her was timely, Shinkafi said it’s for the public and private sectors to come up with informed policies for implementation towards increased revenue for the sector and the economy in general.