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Buhari’s promise unattainable as Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill restoration stalled, says Minister

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The promise by the Buhari administration to revive the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Complex is no longer realistic, Mines and Steel Development Minister said on Thursday.

Mr Olamilekan Adegbite blamed COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war for the stalled restoration of the project for which President Muhammadu Buhari had approved $2 million.

“The deal with Russia involved a $2 million fee for technical audit required to ascertain the state of the facility before work would begin.

“The government moved to continue the negotiations with Russia after the lockdown, but progress was again stalled due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“In October 2019, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Russia’s Vladmir Putin met at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi and agreed to revive the uncompleted Ajaokuta steel mill but the project suffered force majeure due to COVID-19,” the minister told State House correspondents at the weekly ministerial briefing at the State House, Abuja.

According to Adegbite, the government engaged a British firm which offered its services for free to revive the steel company.

“The arrangement with the Russian firm failed as the contract was awarded to a company with both Russians and Ukrainian interests.

“The $2 million is safe in the federal government account, 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.

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“We had started the process of procurement, then with this war, we can no longer go that way.

“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,” he said.

On Buhari’s promise, Adegbite told reporters: “I have 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.

“I pray that I will have a chance to go back and apologize and explain what happened to the people before I leave office.”

“ in office, said his Ministry is currently working on projects across the six geopolitical zones which will be commissioned by July this year,

He disclosed that the ministry had recorded some achievements including the launch of Made in Nigeria barite, and establishment of mining-related clusters in the six geopolitical zones of the country.

Also, a Jewellery Making Training Centre in Abuja was established where 45 students recruited from all the 36 States and FCT are being trained on jewellery making.

Nigeria, he said, Adegbite has attained self-sufficiency in Barite production, adding it will no longer import barite from October 2022.

“We are going to auction now bitumen in June, this will bring a lot of money. A lot of foreign companies are showing interest in our bitumen and this is even better than the bitumen that is found in Canada.

“So, we have a lot of Canadian companies who have shown interest, because  Canada supplies the largest volume of bitumen to the world now. So, we have a lot of companies coming from Canada.

“They want to participate in our bitumen project that will create jobs, give value to government, and of course, will also help when it comes to our projects, road construction.”

“We are about to conclude the  Bitumen Auction, we have completed the automation of the Mining Cadastre System to meet international full standards for online mining title and license applications and approvals,”‘; Adegbite stressed.

He added that a large-scale Gold production  platform had been set up through Segilola Gold project and proposed refining through Dukia Gold and Kian Smith.

“The famous Ladi Kwali Pottery Center is being remodelled and resuscitated to train Nigerians in modern pottery and ceramic works.

“The Nigeria Mining Development Company (NMDC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding MOU with the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) to produce alloys hitherto imported from China.

“Under the MoU, Brass will be processed for armament and Lead for ammunition.

“We have repositioned the SMDF and we are finalizing an amendment to the act to further institutionalize the fund along global best practices.”

On the Mining Act 2007, he announced that the federal government would soon review the law, adding 44 solid minerals in commercial quantities have been found across 500 locations in the country.

On export, Adegbite disclosed that the country had started Gold exports through the Segilola Resource Development, and it is expected to export 100, 000 ounces of gold annually.

He said: “Their production capacity is 100,000 ounces per annum.  You can plan on that. We know how much we are charging per ounce of gold at that rate. So you know that in a year, this is what we are expecting.

“We charge at 3% but the price will vary because our price is based on the cost that is going at the international market, the New York exchange will quote the price of gold at any particular point in time.

“That’s our reference price. So it’s not fixed as in like, Oh, it must be N10 every year. Gold went as high as $2,500 per ounce at a point. I think it’s worth about $2,200 now, on the stock exchange. So this is the price as used to calculate that.”

On the ongoing Gold mining in Zamfara State, Adegbite said the government had stopped mining activities in the state, saying the conflict in the state is beyond mining.

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