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Ajaokuta May Not Work Before We Leave Office-Adegbite

-As Mines Ministry Contributes Over N10bn to GDP between 2015-2023

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Olamilekan Adegbite has said the Buhari Administration may not be able to get Ajaokuta to work before they leave office, due to COVID-19 Interference.

The Minister who gave an unreserved apology to Nigerians while fielding questions from the Media during the presentation of the Ministry’s scorecard at President Muhammadu Buhari’s Scorecard Series (2015 – 2023) in Abuja, today, also informed that the ministry had contributed over N10bn revenue to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) since the inception of the present administration.

In his words” In 2019, I just came on board in August, in October 23/24, there was the Russian-African Summit, in Russia, the President was there and I went along with him. On the Sideline, we had a bilateral with the Russian Government where Putin and our own President sat. We requested amongst other things that they should help us to resuscitate Ajaokuta and they acceded to that request with a timeline that we will finish in 2 years and Ajaokuta will start production

Recalling that on their return to Nigeria, he had announced that we would make sure that Ajaokuta starts working by Q3 of 2022.

“The first thing to be done then was a technical audit, to ascertain what was wrong, what needed to be changed, and what needed to be serviced, the Russians were going to come in in March 2020 to start a technical audit which was supposed to take 90 days ( 3 months). We agreed to the price and the money was made available by the Nigerian government everybody could recall, COVID started and we could not do the technical audit. By December we thought things had gone and they will come, then the second wave hit us and that went on throughout 2020-2021 they could not come”

He however assured that rather than wait, they had expanded their nets and had agreed to concession Ajaokuta in some equitable terms. So what the government has done is employ a transaction adviser who will guide us through the process, we are working with ICRC”

“And as I said, we may not get Ajaokuta to work again before we would leave office, I said I will apologise to Nigerians because I promised that it would work in 3rd quarter. We couldn’t do it and I give an unreserved apology for that but it is not due to lack of effort and we have not stopped, the process is ongoing and before we will leave office, we will concession Ajaokuta in some equitable terms, not the cheap concession we had in the past”

He also stated that a major achievement of the ministry was to ensure that the downstream mineral policy took effect, saving the country $300m being spent on the importation of barites

The Minister stated that “In 2015, the royalty was just N1.3b and revenue about N743m, total revenue collected was just about N2bn but as of October 2022, we had already hit N8b. At the same time, we have excess barites and can export to places such as Ghana and South Africa as they just discovered oil and need barites as well.”

Adegbite who noted that Mining  is on the exclusive legislative list of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recalled that organized mining in the country began in 1903 when the Mineral Survey of the Northern Protectorates was created by the British colonial government

The Minister while listing the successes of Buhari’s administration in the sector said, under the administration, the sector had “Attracted over $ 1 billion in Foreign Direct Investment in the Mining sector (Segilola Gold Company (Investment Portfolio of $900m); African Natural Resources and Mines Limited (Investment Portfolio of $600m); Kian Smith Gold Refinery; Dukia Gold and precious Metals.

He added that they had also “Engaged over 500 prospective Mining Investors in investment meetings through International Conferences among which, some have started setting up businesses in Nigeria. Promoted the Nigerian mining sector in three international mining journals and publications; RockPost, iMine, and Global Mining review publications among others.

He added that the Ministry which was set up in 1995 to spur rapid and beneficial development of the country’s mineral resources, to Regulate the minerals and metals sector; to Identify the nation’s mineral resources; among others was not without its challenges as they were still faced with Inadequate data, Low technology utilization and productivity, Infrastructure deficit, Illegal Mining and Community challenges, Institutional Weakness, Poor funding and Federal/State Subsidiarity Tensions

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