Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
As part of its efforts to streamline the activities of the Solid Mineral Development Fund (SMDF) and support its operations in order to enable it deliver on its mandate, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) has organised a two-day interactive special meeting for its Board members and Management of the SMDF to enable it present its Strategic Plan of Action for ratification.
The retreat, noted the Minister of State, MMSD, Hon. Abubakar Bwari, was a deliberate effort by the ministry to provide the needed support to establish a governance structure for the SMDF to enable it deliver on its mandate.
Bwari charged the Board to come up with a functional governance structure within the framework of the Act establishing the SMDF so as to facilitate its immediate operationalisation.
He made reference to the recently concluded Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) focus Labs which recommended that the SMDF be provided with N200 billion seed capital in addition to the earlier plans for raising $600m in bond.
According to him, â€œI call on the Board of the SMDF to exploit the opportunity provided by this retreat to ensure that such a structure is fashioned out so that the SMDF can deliver on its mandate.”
He said the Ministry was more determined to pursue the reform initiative contained in the ministryâ€™s roadmap for the growth and development of the Nigerian mining industry and called on all the departments and agencies of the ministry to be committed to giving the SMDF all the support it needs to succeed.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadri Muazu in his opening remarks stressed that the meeting was aimed at educating the SMDF as a parastatal of the ministry about its relationship with the ministry, the powers, functions and duties and responsibilities of the Board and the management which he believed was fundamental to the effective functioning of the SMDF.
The meeting, according to him, was also to give the management and relevant agencies an overview of the current situations in the SMDF, identify potential areas of partnership in order to guide the ministry in mobilizing the technical and human resources needed to strengthen and support it, to implement the Strategic Plans of Actions as developed at the special Board meeting.
Muazu said for SMDF to justify its existence, especially in view of the current economic reform initiatives under the ERGP, he believed that it has no option to developing the required capacity to function effectively, while acknowledging the fact that SMDF needs support and assistance to succeed.
He highlighted the key issues which have constrained the effective performance of the Board to include; governance, capacity, visibility, partnership, relationship, management and finding. He was however optimistic that the challenges would be overcome.
The SMDF Board Chairman, Alhaji Uba Malami, in his remarks said the Board has taken the challenge as the enablers of the mining sector seriously, as he said the Board was challenged with development of physical and human capacity in the mining sector, private sector, geo-scientific data gathering to promote investments, equipping mining institutions to help perform their statutory functions, capacity building in the small and artisanal mining sector and also infrastructural development to mining areas.
He called for the cooperation and support of all the various agencies and departments of the ministry towards the achievement of their objectives of having a virile financial support structure for the solid mineral sector.
In her closing remarks, the Secretary of the Board and the Chief Executive of the SMDF, Hajiya Fatima Shinkafi appreciated the Minister and the Permanent Secretary for creating the platform for interaction as she said the sector is getting the much needed attention after decades of neglect.
She said SMDF was envisioned to carry out specific projects and intervention covering, financing, knowledge & capacity development, environmental & social, external linkage and infrastructural development.
Shinkafi said the primary funding to SMDF would be sourced primarily from the Natural Resources Development Fund (NRDF) while additional funding would come from various sources which include funds appropriated for solid minerals development and grants, donations, foreign loans, bonds and long-term swaps.
SMDF was established by section 34 of the Nigerian Mining and Minerals Act 2007, to address the fundamental sectoral challenge of insufficient funding; a problem that has historically undermined the growth potentials of the sector.