The Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD) Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite flanked from left; the Hon. Minister of State, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah and (R) Permanent Secretary, Mr Edet Akpan.
By John Okeke
The Federal Government is committed to the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company which is lying in comatose.
Speaking in Abuja on Monday, during the Interactive Session with the Media , the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamelekan Adegbite, said that the Russian Government has nominated contractor to commence technical audit on Ajaokuta Steel Company.
Adegbite said the Buhari-led administration has strategically positioned the pattern to ensure Ajaokuta Steel Company is resuscitated and made operational to change the narrative in the steel industry and industrialization of the economy under the build, use, operate and transfer policy, which President Muhammadu Buhari and his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin had a bilateral agreement on a government-to-government cooperation to resuscitate Ajaokuta.
He said: “Essentially the project on the collaboration with Ajaokuta is the build use, operate transfer, the President of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari and President Vladimir Putin, sat together at a bilateral meeting and agreed on a government to government cooperation to resuscitate Ajaokuta because the Russians built Ajaokuta when they where the Soviet Union in collaboration with the Ukrainians.
“And that is why we have gone back to them, the whole essence is for them to come here, access the plant and access the job to be done that is what we call a technical audit, the Russian government has nominated a contractor who will do the job.
“But the whole essence is that the Russian technical experts will come, do the audit which will lead to them giving us an exact figure of how much it will cost to resuscitate Ajaokuta and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), the two are tied together and once this is done, of course there will be negotiations, we won’t just take whatever they give us, their will be negotiations and at the end of the day, a sum will be agreed and contract formed and that is the basis that we will proceed.”
He further explained that, “The experts will come and audit, they will bring in a management under the same contractor, that is the essence of the government to government cooperation, they will bring in management the essence of that is that is to manage the plant so that the plant pays back the loan without recourse to the country.”
The Minister added that, “President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the Nigerian government will not spend any money on Ajaokuta again so Ajaokuta is making a business case which has been accepted and once it is resuscitated and producing it can pay back its loan.
“So the whole essence is that they will build and operate it for awhile upon agreed terms and at the end of the term when the loan is paid with interest, the plant will be reverted back to Nigeria and at that time a decision will be taken on who will manage it.”
On funding Ajaokuta Steel Company project the Minister also made it known that, “The funding is coming from two sources, the Russian export center, which is a Russian sort of NEXIM Bank it is called the Russian Export Centre, they are providing $450 million for the project and of course from the Afrexim Bank will be providing $1 billion, so we have a total of $1.45 billion.
“But the whole essence is that the Russian technical experts will come, do the audit which will lead to them giving us an exact figure of how much it will cost to resuscitate Ajaokuta and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), the two are tied together and once this is done, of course there will be negotiations, we won’t just take whatever they give us, there will be negotiations and at the end of the day, a sum will be agreed and contract formed and that is the basis that we will proceed.”
He also explained that based on the bilateral agreement between the two Presidents, the Russians will bring the experts to fix the plant.
“The Russians will bring the experts to fix the plant, but I must say at this point that we are working on what we call local context, right now we proposed 60 per cent local content, everything that is required in Ajaokuta and NIOMCO that is obtainable in Nigeria must be sourced from Nigeria, we don’t want everyone to come here and dump everything on us, only those things that we cannot provide can be brought from outside so right now we are at that stage of 60/40 of 60 per cent local content and 40 per cent foreign”, he stated.
Commenting on the protracted issue of miners having access to the money meant for their operations at the Bank of Industry, BoI, the Minister explained that it is only when miners form cooperatives that they can access the loan at BoI and not as individuals.
“On the aspect of the artisanal and small scale formalization because the Nigerian landscape is dominated by this people so the aspect of their formalization is in process so at the last count about 300 or 400 cooperatives bodies have been formed.
“So it is an ongoing process, these groups are being encouraged to access the funds we have at the Bank of Industry, BoI, because it is easier for the people in the cooperatives to get the loan than individuals.
“The problem is the individual inability to secure the loans and when the loan is accessed most of them will not be given in cash but equipment, it is all an ongoing process”, he added.