The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc Olamilekan Adegbite, has said the federal government has engaged a British firm to revive Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited “for free”.
The decision came after the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine.
He said this Thursday while fielding questions from State House reporters at the special weekly briefing coordinated by the Presidential Communications Team in Abuja.
The minister, while speaking on the efforts to revive the steel company under the current administration, said President Muhammadu Buhari had released $2b in 2020 to revive the project under an arrangement with a firm comprising both Russians and Ukrainians.
He said, “In October 2019, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi and agreed to revive the uncompleted Ajaokuta steel mill.”
Adegbite, however said: “The project suffered force majeure due to COVID-19”
The minister, who did not name the British firm, said the arrangements with the Russian firm failed as the contract was awarded to a company with both Russian and Ukrainian interests.
He said the $2b was safe in the federal government account, adding that “The money has not even been given to anybody, the Russians can’t get any payment now with the way things are happening in the world. All their accounts are blocked.
“So, the $2 million is still with the federal government…the president has given the money for that purpose. We had started the process of procurement, then with this war, we can no longer go that way.”
He said the “British firm is offering to do it for us free now”, adding that “By the grace of God, we have started an irreversible process. The problem with Ajaokuta is actually what we call force majeure. Nobody thought of the COVID, because the plan was to deliver Ajaokuta this year 2022.
Adegbite said the company might not be fully revived under the current administration as earlier promised.
“And I’ve said it before, when we came back from Russia, yes, I went to the public and said, look we will deliver Ajaokuta before the end of this tenure. And I pray that I’ll have a chance to go back and apologise and explain what happened to the people before I leave office.”
He further disclosed that the ministry is about to conclude the Bitumen Auction. “We have completed the automation of the Mining Cadastral System to meet international full standards for online mining title and license applications and approvals.”