By Adamu Abuh
Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives
The House of Representatives yesterday disagreed with the Minister of State for Solid Minerals, Mr. Abubakar Bawa Bwari, over the move to concession the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel rolling mill allegedly to Global Infrastructure Limited.
The House, via Femi Gbajabiamila-led ad-hoc committee probing into why the steel complex is yet to commence operations since it was initiated by former President Shehu Shagari in 1979, said the Executive would do Nigerians a huge favour by ensuring the completion of the steel complex.
Gbajabiamila, who alongside the committee members grilled the minister for over three hours, said the steel complex could no longer be concessioned owing to the fact that the House had already amended the Privatisation Act, deleting it from among state-owned firms that could be concessioned.
Gbajabiamila, who maintained that it makes economic sense for government which had already invested $8 billion to spend about $500 million to complete the steel complex, stated that the completion of the project would earn foreign exchange, save the country billions of naira from importation of steel products as well as generate employment opportunities for the teeming population of unemployed youths in the country.
But the minister, who admitted that his ministry did not request for the monies required to achieve the goal in the 2018 budgetary proposal, said that government’s inability to commit more funds into the project was based on the advice of the transition committee put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari which believed that the Ajaokuta Steel Complex had been used as a conduit pipe to steal government monies over the years.
He said the House committee should have completed its investigation into the issue before going ahead to outlaw the move to concession the steel complex.
Besides, he said even if the steel complex is completed, Nigerians cannot reap from it until on-going work on the railway sector, the dredging of the River Niger and work on the Onne Port are completed.
The minister, who claimed that foreign conspiracy against the completion of the steel complex could not be ruled out, disclosed that firms from Ukraine and Russia were among the 11 firms that had indicated interest for the running of the steel complex.
Bwari, who stated that the move to concession the steel complex was based on the realisation that Nigerians are poor managers of state-owned enterprise, faulted the claims in some quarters that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had already endorsed the concessioning of the multi-billion worth steel firm.
He also claimed that he was not privy to any information that officials of Global Infrastructure Holdings Limited, which is also handling the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMC), Itakpe, were not only indicted over display of incompetence but were sent to jail in Bulgaria.