By SUNDAY ABBA, Abuja
The federal government has clarified that there was no preferred bidder yet for Ajaokuta steel company.
The clarification is coming amidst speculations that some preferred bidder had been penciled down to take over and operationalise the gigantic steel project which has been in the pipe line for over 40 years now, even as a lot of taxpayers’ resources have been committed to completing without results over the years.
Tagged ‘Bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialisation’, the Ajaokuta Steel Mill, located in Ajaokuta, Kogi State, which if stocked with up to 2.13 million tonnes of iron ore is capable of producing 1.3 million tonnes of steel annually according to experts, was begun in 1979 and all efforts to get it completed under the then Shagari administration were truncated with the incursion of the military, leaving the project believed to be over 95% completed as at then uncompleted to date in spite of budgetary allocations by the federal government year in year out.
Minister of Mines and Steel Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite stated this during a live interview on Arise Television however assured that a preferred bidder would be named before the end of the present administration as efforts were on to sort out.
He disclosed that at the moment, 11 bids have been received but that none of the companies has been selected.
The Minister explained that unlike past attempts aimed at reviving the steel company, the approach this time would be different.
He maintained that what the federal government would be doing with the asset would be to take a different approach from concession, saying the preferred bidder for the asset must be ready to play by the rules.
‘‘I think that word concession has been overused. This time around we are doing the type of concession whereby somebody comes in and have a free ride. Maybe it is the semantics. The transaction adviser in this case is guiding the Federal Government on the proper thing to do.
“Like I said, we don’t want a free ride anymore, we have people who will come in into Ajaokuta with their equity. Those are some of the lessons learnt in the past because we have had two sessions of concession in Ajaokuta that failed. This time around we are been guided by experts because of the values that are inherent in Ajaokuta.
“Investors have visited and they appreciate. We have a lot of people who want to come in. But this time around, we are saying that there is no free lunch and no one can come in on a free ride.
“Anyone coming in must come in on equity basis. What those terms would be is to be determined by the transaction adviser who is there to advise us and rank all the proposals that we have,” he said.
On efforts to revive the mining sector, Adebgite said, “President Muhammadu Buhari, is the first President to have committed so much money into mining.”
He explained that mining is a very risky venture and to attract investment, Government had to de-risk it by investing money into exploration and acquiring data.
According to him, the data acquired then is what is attracting investors into the sector at the moment, which, he said, is a paradigm shift.
He added that when he came on board he discovered that the sector was going the way of the petroleum industry where there is no value addition because we only export crude oil and bring in refined products.
‘‘So having noticed that, we commenced a process of engaging stakeholders which took us two years. But today, it is an official policy of Government which was approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC) that without beneficiation, you cannot export raw ore from Nigeria anymore and that is a major achievement because that is what will create the jobs for us.
“We just don’t want to be a raw material country. In January (2022) I was in Saudi Arabia and the Telsa people approached us that they want to come and mine our lithium because it is very rich. And I said they are welcome but we don’t want them to just come and mine our lithium but they should come and build their factory here.
“The essence of mining the lithium is to make the battery. If you make the battery, you can export it and if you they like, they can come and assemble their vehicles here as well. That is the only way we can retain value and that is beginning to happen to us already,’’ he explained further.