The Minister on Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Thursday revealed that the House of Representatives duly appropriated the sum of N2,096,500.00 (Two billion, ninety six million, five hundred thousand naira ) for the concessioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex in the 2017 budget, wondering why the same House has now turned around to attack the Ministry for implementing the law.
The Minister who addressed journalists in Abuja on Thursday, said both the Ministry and the National Assembly had been on the same page regarding the need to concession the Steel Complex adding that the Ministry had been canvassing the concessioning option in all its meetings and sectoral debates with the law makers.
He said government had taken a decision not to spend an additional one dollar on Ajaokuta, since over $8 billion dollar had been sunk into the project by successive administrations since 1982.
Instead, he said government felt it would be better to give the complex to a credible operator with proven technical capacity and financial wherewithal to run it more profitably.
This he said necessitated the appropriation of over N2billion dollar for the concessioning in the 2017 appropriation duly passed into law by the same law makers now opposed to concessioning.
“We are just implementing what was passed by the National Assembly, that is why we are surprised that we have been subjected to an unwarranted attack over the matter in the last one week”.
Dr Fayemi said the March 1, 2018 sectoral debate which himself and the Minister of State Hon Abubakar Bawa Bwari, could not attend, and for which they duly notified the law makers, was the first and only time they would be absent at such debates, having attended four previously, with focus on Ajaokuta and the steel sector.
The Minister stated that most of the allegations made against him, the Minister of State and the Ministry officials were not only unfounded but malicious. He said while the House members reserved the right to discuss and pass resolutions on national issues, he took serious exception to a member of the House going outside the hallowed chambers to make spurious allegations against public servants.
He revealed also that the technical audit, which would determine the actual cost of fixing Ajaokuta Steel Complex, was still on going, and would be ready in six weeks.
Specifically, Dr Fayemi said that contrary to insinuations, the Russian government had never approached the Ministry nor the Federal Government to signify interest in running the complex.
He , however, confirmed that some companies in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Nigeria had expressed interest in taking over the Ajaokuta Complex, but that the Ministry’s stand was that they should wait till an open and competitive bid for the steel complex would be opened.
This, he said would happen after certain things have been put in place including the technical audit.
Fayemi said that the idea that the Ajaokuta complex was 98 per cent completed can best be determined by the outcome of the technical audit, without which he said insistence on the 98 per cent completion amount to mere sloganeering.
Fayemi said: “Ajaokuta is an inherited challenge. The Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration concessioned it, the President Umaru Yar’Adua government revoked it. And the case went to London Court of Arbitration. Its resolution in 2016 led to the signing of the Modified NIOMCO Agreement, which ceded the complex back to the Federal Government and NIOMCO to Global Steel.
““No fewer than 14 parties have shown interest in running the complex, but government’s position is that we would not do any concessioning without a technical audit.
“PriceWaterHouse Cooper was engaged to do a review of the company’s indebtedness and statutory liabilities as part of the settlement agreement.
“The National Assembly appropriated N2,096,500 for Ajaokuta Concessioning in the 2017 Appropriation duly passed into law. We are just commencing what was passed into law by the National Assembly.
“This is why I am surprised at how we have been subjected to vitriolic attack in the last one week. The March 1 sectoral debate which we could not attend was the first and only one myself and the Minister of State were unable to attend and we duly communicated this to the leadership of the House.
“We take exception to allegations that are not backed up by evidence. Allegations that officials of the Ministry have had their hands tied by concessionaire is quite unfounded.
“The Russian government has not indicated interest in Ajaokuta. Yes we have had offers form companies from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and even Nigeria.
“Yes, I have met with the Russian Ambassador the same way I have met with the Ukrainian Ambassador and many other ambassadors. The Russian ambassador told me they can offer technical, management or audit support. But not as a country bringing in money to take over the complex.
“Many are saying Ajaokuta is 98 per cent completed. The Ministry believes that can only be determined by the outcome of the technical audit, which should be ready in about six weeks.
Fayemi reiterated that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was being painstaking with the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, giving the fact that the steel complex had been a victim of bad planning and poor execution by past administrations.
“Our interest is to make it work, so that it can create jobs and wealth, and we are ready to work with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to ensure its success,” Fayemi added.