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‘Reps okayed N2b for Ajaokuta..White Elephant project ?

With $8 billion down the drain, the Federal Government has shut the cash tap on troubled Ajaokuta Steel complex.

Solid Minerals Development Minister Kayode Fayemi yesterday said the government had spent $8billion on the facility since 1979 and would no longer put public cash in it.

He said the government preferred to attract private investors to the plant and make it functional.

Besides, the House of Representatives voted N2 billion for the plant’s concessioning.

A Technical Audit of the Steel Complex will be completed in six weeks.

The audit will determine the state of the plant, the remaining level of completion and how much will be required to make it fully functional.

Fayemi, however, said since the House had passed a vote of no confidence on him and the Minister of State, Hon. Bawa Bwari, he will not honour any invitation from the chamber.

Fayemi said: “Since 2016 we must have received at least 14 interested parties who have come to us on Ajaokuta and these companies are from all over. The Ukrainians have come, the Russians have come, the Chinese, the Belarusians; private steel professionals in Nigeria have also approached the ministry that they are interested in taking over.

“We have noted all this interest but we have also said to them that we are not going to repeat the mistake of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration; we will not undertake the re-concessioning without one, a technical audit and two, a transaction advisory service that would look into all this and advise us accordingly   as to who really has the technical capacity, the financial wherewithal and the track record to really bring Ajaokuta back to life.

The minister added: “However, the government took a principal position on one thing, that Nigeria will not spend one dollar on so-called completion of Ajaokuta steel plant and the reason for that is very simple. Today, from our records, we have spent close to $8 billion since 1979 when this process started and we have not seen the result.

“Some people will tell you all manner of silly things; it is 98% to be completed, it is only 1% left, and it is this or that. But it is absolute balderdash because when you then probe further, what do you mean by 2% completion? Is it the external infrastructure around it? Is it the blast furnace? Is it the medium section or the light rolling mill? You will not get any definitive response from the campaigners who want Nigeria to toss same money to this plant in order to complete it.”

Fayemi faulted the House of Representatives for “approbating and reprobating” on the re-concessioning of the steel complex.

He said: “We requested in budget 2017 for the re-concessioning of Ajaokuta and the same House of Representatives, the same National Assembly approved for us for concessioning. In fact, the title of the budgetary approval was, ‘Concessioning of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited. They voted N2 billion for us.

“So, I found it surprising when I listened to what the Honorable Speaker said on the floor and also when he went to Ajaokuta – that concessioning is not acceptable, not allowed. We did not pass the law. Appropriation Act is a law, a law that has to be respected and honoured.

“We didn’t put any of these figures there. Yes, we requested for it but they could have rejected it. There were things we requested for that they rejected, but if this same National Assembly has this law and all that we have done was to commence the process of implementing what is in the law, I really want to find out, what is our offence in this?”

Fayemi said the Technical Audit of Ajaokuta Steel Complex was ongoing in to determine the level of its depreciation and how much it will cost to complete it.

“If I say this is how much it is going to cost to put Ajaokuta Steel Complex in shape, that will be an unintelligent response because a technical audit of the steel plant is ongoing and being undertaken by Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC),” the minister said, adding:

“I will urge you to wait for that technical audit to produce factual, evidence-based independently verifiable costing, the report will be ready in six weeks.”

The minister said he will not honour any invitation from the House since the chamber has passed a vote of no confidence in him and the Minister of State.

Fayemi said: “There were also some allegations that the hands of the officials of the ministry are tied by the proposed concessionaires. These are concessionaires that we don’t know. This is a process that has not even commenced and we have no clues as to who is going to get the ultimate concession on the steel plant. How can our hands be tied in a process like this?

“It is such unfounded allegations that we think is unbecoming of the entire House of Representatives.

“I have my name to protect. There is nothing that I have come to government with apart from my name. I’m not going to subject myself to my name being rubbished on grounds that are unfounded, unwarranted and cannot be defended on any basis.

“Since the House of Representatives has now said it has no confidence in me and my colleague the Minister of State, I do not believe the House of Representatives should expect me to now even honour any invitation by them. I don’t think the House should expect me to honour any invitation from them. What is the basis of listening to someone you don’t have confidence in? I don’t think there is any basis.

“It (the attack from the House) is an unusual one; I think there is enough of this attack. The fact that we are public officers does not mean we do not have blood in our veins. There may be more than meet the eye on this issue.”

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