The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that the Federal Government has paid a total of $446m to clear off a judgement debt on the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
He disclosed this on Thursday in his opening remarks at the 19th edition of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd) regime scorecard 2015 to 2023 series organised by the ministry.
In his remarks, the information minister accused the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, of being deceitful in his campaign promise to resolve the problems facing the Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
He said, “About two weeks ago, during his campaign stop in Kogi State, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, said if voted into office, his government will resolve the problems facing the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
“This is a deceitful statement borne out of desperation for power. A little bit of background will show that the former Vice President was deceiving Nigerians when he made that promise. Ajaokuta was concessioned to Global Steel Industry in 2004 by the regime of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo. Who was in charge of that Administration’s privatisation programme? Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. That concession that turned out to be a mess was terminated by another PDP administration.
“Following the failed concession, the concessionaire, Global Steel Industry, took Nigeria to court, asking for $7bn, and that case lingered for 12 years until the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari stepped in and the company finally settled for $496m.”
The minister also noted that there is a balance of $50m, which would be paid in February.
“Out of the amount, we made a bulk payment of $250m and agreed to pay the balance in five instalments. To date, we have paid a total of $446m out of the $496m. We will make the last payment of $50m next month and Ajaokuta will revert fully to us – ending the shameful and failed concession by the administration in which Alhaji Atiku Abubakar served as the VP,” he added.
He further noted that the government was engaging investors who would ensure the running of operations at the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
The minister concluded that “What I am saying, in essence, is that the problems facing Ajaokuta were the poorly-thought-out and poorly-executed concession by the regime in which Alhaji Atiku was Vice President, and a regime under which he presided over the failed privatisation programme. If the former vice president had any solution to the Ajaokuta challenge, and he didn’t execute it in 2004, why should Nigerians trust him to do so in 2023, almost 20 years later? Apparently, the former VP is not even aware of the current status of Ajaokuta, the settlement reached with the concessionaire and the payments made. Without this information, how does he want to revive the steel company?
“Nigerians should beware of snake oil salesmen, who engage in deceit just to swindle them. The solution to Ajaokuta does not lie in the hands of the same people who scuttled the development of the country’s steel industry through a questionable concession. Nigerians beware! Don’t allow yourselves to be conned twice!”
Also, speaking at the event, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, noted that there were 66 cyber-attacks from Europe to compromise the virtual meetings of the Federal Executive Councils.
Pantami said since the unveiling of the National Policy on Virtual Engagements for Federal Public Institutions in October 2020, not less than, 108 virtual FEC meetings had been held.
He said from the 108 virtual FEC meetings held, 66 attacks to compromise the meetings were made from Europe but all failed.
The minister said all the cases were reported to the appropriate authorities for the record and actions.
He said that the National Policy on Virtual Engagements was launched to formalise government online meetings such as FEC and Council of State meetings.
He said the implementation of the virtual meetings had saved the country over N47bn, which could have been used if they were held physically.