Atiku and Lai Mohammed
Soni Daniel, Abuja
Information Minister Lai Mohammed has slammed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for promising to resolve all the challenges that have stalled the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant in Kogi State.
Atiku is said to have made the promise during his campaign tour of Kogi State a few weeks back.
But at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, the minister said Atiku was part of the problem that has stifled the development of Ajaokuta which the Buhari administration has virtually resolved.
Mohammed 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 privatization 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 $7 billion, and that case lingered for 12 years until the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari stepped in and the company finally settled for $496 million.
Out of the amount, we made a bulk payment of $250 million and agreed
to pay the balance in five instalments. To date, we have paid a total of $446 million out of the $496 million. We will make the last payment of $50 million 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.
“Now, we are talking to investors who are ready to bring their money into Ajaokuta to make sure it works. The Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, who was here last month, assured that before this administration leaves office, Ajaokuta will be concessioned in what he called equitable terms.
“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 privatization 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!,” Mohammed said.
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