By Merit Ibe
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has debunked claim that the Federal Government plans to hand over Ajaokuta steel plant to a British firm for rehabilitation.
Adegbite said this in a statement issued by Ayodeji Adeyemi, his Special Assistant on Media.
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At a ministerial media briefing, Adegbite said the steel plant won’t be ready before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
The minister clarified that a Nigerian firm with British affiliate had expressed interest in carrying out the technical audit for free with no preconditions attached.
“This was what I said at the media parley at the State House and not that Ajaokuta would be handed over to a British company for rehabilitation,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Adegbite said that at no time did he say that the Federal Government was handing over Ajaokuta to a British firm for rehabilitation.
He explained that the Federal Government had been in discussion with a Russian firm, Messrs TPE (nominated by the Russian government), to conduct the technical audit.
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But the war between Ukraine and Russia had caused a setback to the proposed plan.
Adegbite said it was difficult to move forward with the Russian firm due to international sanctions placed on Russia, which have also impacted Russian firms and businesses.
He explained “When the technical audit is completed, the result would be shared with all interested investors and potential partners interested in Ajaokuta steel plant resuscitation, which they would use to enter their submitted bids.
“To ensure that the entire process is transparent, a firm was appointed in 2018 as Transaction Advisor,’ the minister said.
“This firm has been revalidated by the BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) and will guide and ensure a transparent due process in the selection of the eventual firm for Ajaokuta Steel restoration.
“The Technical Assistance will carry out all financial, environmental and technical due process to establish the successful firm and the mode of engagement. The various bids would then be ranked by the transaction advisor according to merits.”
The minister added that the outcome of the transaction advisor’s work would be taken to the federal executive council for a robust discussion and eventual decision.