Contrary to earlier promises, the Federal Government has admitted that it could no longer deliver the Ajaokuta Steel Complex this year or even before President Muhammadu Buhari‘s administration ends.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, who disclosed this yesterday, while addressing State House correspondents in Abuja, blamed the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war for frustrating the project.
He recalled that before the pandemic and war outbreaks, the government had successfully convinced Russia to complete the steel facility, but could not proceed with the negotiations.
He, however, said the federal government would initiate irreversible processes to ensure the resumption and eventual completion of the steel facility after Buhari’s administration.
He said: “Where we are today, we may not be able to get Ajaokuta to work but I pray that we can start something permanent.
“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.
“It is due to no fault of ours. Everybody was ready to go, but unfortunately, COVID came in. So, it is a force majeure.”
Where we are today, we may not be able to get Ajaokuta to work, but I pray that we can start something permanent.
Regarding gold mining in Zamfara State, Adegbite said the government had halted mining activities in the area, in line with the efforts to stop illegal mining.
He continued: “We try to nip them in the bud wherever they rear their heads.
“With the community reporting to us, we have a quick intervention force. We can’t be proactive; it is too expensive to maintain. But we have a quick intervention force.
“If we hear any mining happening in any nook and cranny, we move in there and dislodge them. Those that are arrested, we confiscate their equipment and they are prosecuted.”
He said his Ministry had recorded a number of successes since he assumed office, including attaining self-sufficiency in barite production, and the country would no longer need to import the product.
In terms of revenue generation, he said there has been a quantum leap, as the Ministry had contributed about N10billion to the Federation Account in 2021, against N2billion in 2015.