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Lawmakers, minister argue over Ajaoukuta steel but FG insists on concession

Lawmakers, minister argue over Ajaoukuta steel but FG insists on concession
June 04
19:17 2018

Abubakar Bawa, minister of state for mines and steel development, told federal lawmakers on Monday that concession remains the best way to revive the Ajaoukuta steel plant.

Speaking at a house of representatives public hearing on the plant, the minister also said the federal government was advised from the onset not to inject more funds into the project.

While the lawmakers have asked the federal government to complete the project, the ministry has been insisting that concession is the way forward.

In a bid to block the concession, the lawmakers passed two bills — a bill for an act to provide for the Ajaokuta Steel Company completion fund and a bill for an act to amend the public enterprise privatisation and commercialisation act to delist the plant from companies that could be privatised.


They had also set up an ad-hoc committee to among other things, organise the public hearing to seek ways of resolving issues surrounding the project.

At the hearing which held on Monday, some of the lawmakers faulted the minister’s claim that the federal government is not willing to spend more on the project.

Femi Gbajabiamila, chairman of the committee, informed Bawa that by the passed bill, Ajaokuta plant would be removed from the list of companies covered in the privatisation act.


But the minister condemned the decision, saying it was “unfortunate” the lawmakers took the step.

He, however, said the federal government had been assessing several proposal from different companies regarding the planned concession, and that Nigeria lacks the technical and financial capacity to complete the plant.

Bawa said: “Let us put sentiments aside, does the Nigerian government have the capacity to manage the steel complex? Look at our refineries, fertilizer plants, national stadia.

“Even if we complete the (remaining) two percent of the project, we can’t operate it without completing the internal and external infrastructure. The question is how to bring in the raw material, both input and output. First, we need to dredge the river Niger, inland port at Warri, inland port at Lokoja, and the deep sea port connected with railway.


“If we are to use land transportation, we are going to require about 750 trucks, even some experts claim that at full capacity, it would require about 2,000 trucks.”

This annoyed some of the lawmakers, who insisted that Nigeria has what it takes to complete and manage the project.

They said the problem was the lack of political will to accomplish the dream shown by successive governments.

Abdul Sani from Adamawa then challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to visit the steel plant and also “act in the interest of the nation”.


The minister told the committee that there were private firms with offers to provide needed infrastructure to get the project working, but added that the ministry was keeping all options open.

The lawmakers said the estimated $1.4 billion said to be required to finish both internal and external infrastructure could be appropriated by the national assembly.



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