The Federal Government claims that the solution to Ajaokuta Steel Company’s difficulties does not lie in the hands of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who oversaw the company’s dubious and disastrous concession.
This was said by Alhaji Lai, Minister of Information and Culture, on Thursday in Abuja during the 19th edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) administration Scorecard Series (2015-2023).
In his opening remarks, the minister claimed it was deceptive and motivated by a desire for power for Atiku, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, to vow to reform the corporation if elected.
He claimed Atiku who made the pledge approximately two weeks back during his campaign tour in Kogi State, was not honest and Nigerians should not allow themselves “to be fooled twice”.
“A little bit of background will show that the former Vice President was deceiving Nigerians when he made that promise. Ajaokuta was concessioned to Global Steel Industry in 2004 by the administration of then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“Who was in charge of that Administration’s privatisation programme? Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“That concession that turned out to be a mess was terminated by another PDP administration.
“If the former Vice President had any solution to the Ajaokuta challenge, and he didn’t execute it in 2004, why should Nigerians trust him to do so in 2023, almost 20 years later?
According to Mohammed, after the failed concession, the concessionaire, Global Steel Industry, sued Nigeria for $7 billion, and the lawsuit dragged on for 12 years.
He said that President Buhari’s administration intervened, and the corporation eventually settled for $496 million.
The minister stated that the country has made a lump sum payment of $250 million and committed to pay the remaining in five installments.
“To date, we have paid a total of 446 million dollars out of the 496 million dollars.
“We will make the last payment of 50 million dollars next month and Ajaokuta will revert fully to us – ending the shameful and failed concession by the administration in which Alhaji Atiku Abubakar served as the vice president,’’ he said.
According to Mohammed, the government is already talking to investors who are ready to bring their money into Ajaokuta to make sure it works.
He reiterated the assurance by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, that before the Buhari administration leaves office, Ajaokuta will be concessioned in equitable terms.
After Mohammed’s opening remarks, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami presented the scorecard of his Ministry.