Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
The federal government on Monday took another step towards realising its economic diversification agenda by inaugurating the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT).
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony in Abuja, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, who also doubled as the Chairman of the Team, said government intended to create opportunities for the development of national capacity for real industrialisation.
The SGF, according to a statement issued by the Director of Information in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Mr Willie Bassey, said the need to set balls rolling for the development of various sectors of the economy became more pressing as a result of the unpleasant realities currently bugging the global oil market.
“The Ajaokuta Steel plant has languished in economic unproductivity for about four decades and previous efforts at reviving it had proved abortive. This has resulted in avoidable massive foreign exchange losses at intolerable opportunity cost to the country.
“The pressing need to redress these avoidable challenges has necessitated this Presidential intervention at this time. This is further underscored by difficulties being witnessed with present challenges in the global oil industry”, he said.
The Chairman stressed the importance of the Ajaokuta steel plant to the country and explained that it presented a unique opportunity to make it to become West Africa’s largest fully integrated producer and most importantly, to accelerate industrialisation in steel related industries.
He noted that the government placed a lot of value on the diversification of the economy, hence, President Buhari’s participation at the Russia/Africa summit in Sochi, Russia, wherefore, the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta steel plant with its Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.
He pointed out that the Ajaokuta Steel Project was ‘’to be resuscitated on the basis of a Government-to-Government agreement with funding from the Afrexim bank and the Russian Export Centre. However, one of the key issues discussed by the parties was the Technical Audit, Upgrade, Completion and Operation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
“Inauguration of the ‘Ajaokuta Presidential Project and Implementation Team’ (APPIT) is therefore meant to kick start the process of re-directing the activities of the steel plant with the aim of bringing the steel project back to life for the growth and economic development of our dear nation”, he said.
According to Mustapha, the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the team included the following:
i. Engage in all bilateral negotiations as shall be necessary on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria leading to the execution of the Government-to-Government Agreement with the Russian Federation and the Afreximbank;
ii. Provide all relevant technical and other inputs necessary to close the Government-to-Government negotiations;
iii. Ensure that the best extreme possible, all relevant raw materials are sourced locally, bearing in mind the local content provisions and the Presidential Executive Order 005;
iv. Scrutinize and assemble Nigerian Content Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC), Special Purpose Vehicle Contractors which will embody the Co-Concessionaire representing Nigeria’s interest in the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Concession;
v. Ensure the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Plant (ASP) based on the original design; and
vi. Ensure timely commissioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant (ASP) within a reasonable period to be agreed upon by the parties to the agreement and recommend primary tenure of a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Concession.
The membership of the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT) included Secretary to the Government of the Federation as Chairman; Hon. Minister of Mines and Steel Development as Alternate Chairman; Permanent Secretary, Mines and Steel Development; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance; and Solicitor-General of the Federation/Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice all members.
Other members of the team included Mr. Gabriel Aduda; Sole Administrator, Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd; Sole Administrator, National Iron Ore Mining Company; Engr. Vincent Dogo (Industry Expert); Prof. Elegba S.B. (Industry Expert); Dr. Godwin Adeogba (Industry Expert); Director-General, ICRC; and Director Steel, MMSD.
Earlier, the Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, gave the background to the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta steel project and noted that the series of event has been long in coming but emphasised that “it is better later than never.”
Adegbite who is also the Alternate Chairman of the Team, praised the SGF for his hard work in ensuring that the Ajaokuta project sees the light of day.
In a vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Edet Akpan, expressed appreciation to the President for his interest and support in the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Project and pledged the readiness of the members of the team to live up to expectation of government in delivering on the project.
He noted that when completed the project will lead to the production of tons of millions of liquid steel would be produced to enhance the nation’s economy.