New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

FG: Why we can’t revive Ajaokuta Steel Co this year

…says Nigeria’ll save $300m yearly with self sufficiency in baryte

The Federal Government has said that it will not be able to revive the comatose Ajaokuta Steel Company this year as planned. Minister of Mines and Steel, Olamilekan Adegbite, made this disclosure yesterday at a briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa. Adegbite recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari was in Russia in 2019 where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Russians for the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel on government to government basis. According to him, the agreement could not be implemented due to the sudden outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), leading to lockdown of global economies and restriction of movements. “I told you, Ajaokuta, by the grace of God, we will start an irreversible process.

The problem with Ajaokuta is actually what we call force majeure. Nobody thought of COVID. If not for the COVID, the plan was to deliver Ajaokuta this year 2022. And I’ve 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.’ And I pray that I’ll have a chance to go back and apologise and explain what happened to the people before I leave office. Yes, it’s through no fault of ours. We were ready to go. Unfortunately, COVID became a force majeure.”

The minister said the resuscitation efforts would have continued after the relaxation of restrictions, but had to be put on hold with the outbreak of the Russia- Ukraine war even as he disclosed that Nigeria has become self-sufficient in the production of baryte and would soon commence exporting the product to other countries. According to him, the production of baryte in sufficient quantities in Calabar, Cross River State, has saved the nation about $300 million being expended on the importation of the product annually. He said: “We’ve spoken about baryte; we’re in Cross River. We now have self-sufficiency.

We used to import $300 million worth and we have to take permission from DPR. DPR was given a licence for the importation of about $300 million every year. Now we save that money. We’re now sufficient; we can now export to places like Ghana, they’re also doing oil exploration in Ghana; to South Africa, they don’t have baryte, they also use baryte and we are closer to those two places, at least than Morocco. Same thing when it comes to lead in Ebonyi.” The minister also disclosed that auctioning of the nation’s bitumen would commence in June, stressing that such would bring a lot of money into government coffers.

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