Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, has said that Nigeria has no business signing deals with China for rails when the tracks can be made in Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company, saying, “It makes no sense and it shows lack of coordination”.
He stated this on Tuesday in Ajaokuta, Kogi State, when he led Senate and House of Representatives’ Joint Committee on Privatisation to Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company.
Murray-Bruce noted that the steel company which was almost 90 percent complete but abandoned by previous governments does not speak well of the country, adding that this has nothing to do with the present government as all past governments are guilty of this.
“For 22 years they should have had a plan through the Minister of National Planning. The Minister of National Planning should be the one integrating the policies of any government in power at the particular time.
“When you go through the detailed presentation and listen to arguments it is difficult to draw conclusions when you don’t listen to the reasons why you are here in the first place.
“That is why it was important for all of us to listen to the argument and understand the reason. But let me say this, I am really touched by the presentation and the kind of leadership you have here. What is really clear to me is that the leaderships of Ajaokuta Steel Plant are very patriotic Nigerians because you must never sell your soul for money. First of all, you are Nigerians, secondly you want to develop this beautiful country and create job opportunities for your people. More importantly, you want to create an environment where those of us in office will look back and say while I was there, I did something for my people obviously this is not the case,” he said.
He noted that the committee would meet with Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Solid Mineral and Steel, while on Thursday they will be having a public hearing on the Ajaokuta Iron Steel Company.
He added that they are going to discuss this in the full view of the Nigerian public and “we will not leave there until we find solution to Nigeria’s problems.”
“You have former governor, Alhaji Shaba Lafiagi, former permanent secretaries and senators. We have very distinguished Nigerians and when we are done, we will proceed to see the vice president, he is the head of the Economic Council, we will find solution to this problem; we are not going to come here for fun.
“This is a very serious issue. As chairman of Senate Committee on Privatisation with that of the House Committee on Privatisation, we guarantee that we will find solution to these problems, I believe Nigeria will not disintegrate, your hard work would not be abandoned, I believe in this beautiful country Nigeria,” he assured.
Earlier in his speech, Engr. Isah Joseph Onobere, sole administrator, said Federal Government should as a matter of urgency, muster the will to rehabilitate, complete and put into operation ASCL and NIOMCO to avoid further deterioration and foster technological and economic development of the nation since the ownership of the steel plant is not in contest.
According to him, Ajaokuta has witnessed two failed concessions and the nation has been worse for those attempts, stressing that they are protracted arbitration case between Federal Government and the last concessionaire, M/S GINL, at the London Court of Arbitration for 8 years running.
“Nigeria deserves to own and operate a steel plant modelled after the Indian experience. India, despite being in steel production for decades and producing the leading private steel plant owner in the world, still has a very strong public sector steel industry.
“Federal Government would have to complete ASCL/NIOMCO and the associated external infrastructure; operate the Plant through Management agreement with the builders (TPE of Russia) for the 18 months project performance guarantee period as contained in the Main Contract with TPE; and consider full privatization at the appropriate threshold of our national development through any viable Public Private Participation (PPP)”, he advised.