Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of mines and steel development, has disclosed that no less than 11 companies are vying for control of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
The Ministry of Information and Culture’s PMB Scorecard series’ ninth edition featured a presentation by Mr. Adegbite on the accomplishments of his ministry, in Abuja on Thursday.
He said that the Buhari administration had successfully settled all legal disputes it had with the steel company and was now in the process of selling it to an appropriate bidder.
When then-President Olusegun Obasanjo granted Global Steel a concession over Ajaokuta Steel Company in 2005, it sparked legal action and a $7 billion demand from Global Steel.
“Things went sour and they took us to court. The court case went on for about 12 years, but thanks to a patriotic Nigerian lawyer in the UK who handled the case very effectively,” Mr Adegbite explained.
“Global Steel came with a demand of seven billion dollars, but our lawyer was able to puncture holes in their case and at the end, they had to settle for 496 million dollars.”
He said that Nigeria benefited from the ruling.
The minister said that, except for the COVID-19 pandemic breakout, the Buhari administration had planned to have Ajaokuta Steel Company operational by the end of 2022.
But he added that the government was committed to making sure that the company was given to a qualified bidder who had the technical and financial resources to maximize its potential.
“We were supposed to make the plant work in 2022. One of the presidential mandates was to resolve all contending issues on Ajaokuta.
“In 2019, at the Russian-Africa summit in Moscow, President Muhammadu Buhari discussed the idea of resuscitating Ajaokuta with President Vladimir Putin.
“An agreement was reached for Russian engineers to come in for a technical audit by March 2020.
“But the emergence of the first and second waves of COVID-19 stalled the plan.
“We hope that we can give Ajaokuta to a company, not just on concession basis, but on equity participation,” he said.
He said that out of the 11 companies bidding, three were Russian.
“We are talking of companies who intend to bring their own monies into Ajaokuta to make sure that it works.
“The plant is still good if we put in the right amount of capital, it will start producing in less than two years.
“Government has employed a transaction adviser who will guide us through the process,” he said.
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