The Buhari administration says the solution to problems facing Ajaokuta Steel Company does not lie in the hands of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, accusing him of deceiving Nigerians.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information, said this on Thursday in Abuja at the 19th edition of Mr Buhari’s scorecard series (2015-2023).
He said the PDP presidential flag bearer, who promised to fix the Ajaokuta firm about two weeks back during his campaign stop in Kogi, was not sincere and Nigerians should not allow themselves “to be conned 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,” said Mr Mohammed. “That concession that turned out to be a mess was terminated by another PDP administration.”
He added, “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?”
The information minister said following the failed concession, the concessionaire, Global Steel Industry, took Nigeria to court, asking for seven billion dollars, and the case lingered for 12 years until the APC regime stepped in, and the company finally settled for $496 million.
The minister explained that out of the $496 million, Nigeria had made a bulk payment of $250 million and agreed to pay the balance in five instalments.
“To date, we have paid a total of $446 million out of the $496 million. We will make the last payment of $50 million 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 ready to bring their money into Ajaokuta to ensure it works. He reiterated the assurance by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, that before the Buhari regime leaves office, Ajaokuta will go into concession under equitable terms.