FG Seeks $2bn Funding from Russian, Chinese Investors to Revive Ajaokuta Steel Plant

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*Launches information portal on Nigeria*Wike declares 60 days free ride for FCT residents on Abuja light rail

CHIGOZIE  AMADI

The federal government said it was in talks with investors from Russia, China, and some Arab countries on the possibility of revamping the Ajaokuta steel company. The government said it was considering an investment of about $2 billion into the resuscitation of the plant constructed in 1979.
Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Audu, made the disclosure yesterday at the Ministerial Sectoral Briefings to mark the first anniversary of the President Bola Tinubu administration.

That was as the federal government launched the Nigerian National Information Portal, as the official digital gateway to comprehensive information on Nigeria.
The portal was launched yesterday by Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, at the commencement of the ministerial briefing in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Tinubu administration.
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, said at the briefing that FCT residents would be provided a two-month free ride on the Abuja Light Rail, which will be launched on May 27 by Tinubu.

Taking his turn at the ministerial sectoral briefings, Audu said the Russian builders had shown substantial willingness and desire to complete the 110 megawatts power plant and bring in the funding and structure that will be the best for Nigeria.
He said, “Although we are talking to the Russians, we have other parties that are also showing interest, including the Chinese, the Arab companies. The consortium the Russians are bringing also include the Nigerian investors. We are factoring local capacity into the conversation.”
Audu added that the ministry had obtained presidential approval to raise private capital to kick-start the live section mill of the Steel Plant One that was 98 per cent complete, and was at the final stages of raising $35 million via private capital institutions.

He said the mill had the capacity to produce over 400,000 metric tonnes of iron rod.
Audu explained that the ministry had also had progressive engagements with the Minister of Defence on using one of the engineering workshops at Ajaokuta to produce military hardware, like helmets, vests, and bullets for use by the Nigerian military.
The minister stressed that the federal government was also thinking of creating an industrial park on a 25-acre land available at Ajaokuta, where all steel operators will coalesce into an industrial hub of Nigerians.

According to him, the ministry is reviving the steel industry with a 10-year document produced by international experts. He said about N5 billion would be required to draft the roadmap from the programme.
Meanwhile, Wike said FCT residents will enjoy a two-month free ride on the Abuja Light Rail, due for launch on May 27 by Tinubu.
He said the Abuja Light Rail will commence commercial operation after the launch, saying, however, that the president may even consider extending the free ride to six months.

Wike said at the briefing, “We are going to allow for rides for two months and you know Mr. President can even say it should be extended to six months, just to reduce the pains of the people. This is the Renewed Hope Agenda, when you say something, you do it.”
He also stated, “So many have said that it was commissioned before. We are not talking about commissioning of building; we are talking about commissioning the commercial operations. There was no access road to all the stations, how do you use it?
“The unavailability of those access roads hindered the operation of the metro line. Remember, in September last year, the president said he wanted to ride on the metro line and, to the Glory of God, on Monday, 27th of this month, Mr. President will ride on that metro line. Now, all the access roads have been done with their car parks.
“From Tuesday, 28th of this month, everybody can go and take a ride for themselves.”
The minister said the last administration awarded a contract to CCECC at the cost of $128 million to train FCT train managers for 29 months for the operation of the metro line. He said when he came on board, he rejected that arrangement and reduced the amount to $75 million, in the process saving the government $53 million.

He urged the National Assembly to review the law against vandalism in the nation’s capital, stating that the current law, which prescribed N10, 000 as fine on conviction, was not punitive enough to deter vandals.
The minister explained, “Take for example, the issue of streetlights on Abuja streets. Today you put streetlights, tomorrow night, it is no longer there. What happened? They have vandalised them. They cut off the cables.
“You arrest them for prosecution, and What does the law say on conviction, N10,000. So, they continue with the act.
“We have told the National Assembly that they must come to our aid by amending and reviewing the law to make it very tough as to discourage vandals from vandalising our infrastructure.”
Equally speaking, Minister of Solid Mineral Resources, Henry Dele-Alake, said the country failed to utilise the humungous amount of petro-dollars that accrued to it over the years to create a structural economy in other sections, including solid mineral and agriculture.
He said over 2,500 mining licences had been revoked by the administration, while 10,000 applications for mining licences were received, of which 4,000 were approved.

The information and national orientation minister launched the Nigerian National Information Portal at the commencement of the briefings, to serve as the official digital gateway to comprehensive information about Nigeria.
Idris said the portal was a centralised source for both local and international audiences, providing reliable and up-to-date information on various aspects of the country, including the government, the people of Nigeria, their cultural heritage, and many more.
The minister stated as he launched the portal, “We use this opportunity to launch the Nigerian National Information Portal. Of course, it was in existence before, but it has been so badly managed that the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation has resuscitated this new portal.
“It is a gateway to all the information you require to know about this government; about Nigeria, people, and our cultures. So, join me in clapping for Nigeria for having this relaunched new National Information Portal.”

The link to the portal is www.nigeria.gov.ng.
Earlier, in his address of welcome to the sectoral briefings, Idris said the president had started laying a solid and enduring foundation that will make life better for the people of Nigeria.
He stated, “Landmark initiatives, like the Consumer Credit Corporation, the Nigeria Education Loan Fund, Presidential Initiative on Compressed Natural Gas, the N200 Billion Presidential Grant and Loan Scheme, our Agriculture and Food Security efforts (including the launch of Dry Season Farming, and massive fertiliser distribution), the Renewed Hope Infrastructure Development Fund(RHIDF), Renewed Hope Cities and Estates programme, our reform efforts in the electricity sector, and in the area of taxes and fiscal policy, and the negotiations for a befitting new National Minimum Wage are some of the many policies and programmes that will directly touch and improve the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Nigerians.”

Idris expressed the commitment of Tinubu to ensuring the cost of living and doing business in Nigeria was brought down significantly by putting more money into the pockets of Nigerians, attracting more local and foreign investment, and transforming the country’s infrastructure.

“And we will not pause or relent until we have delivered Truly Renewed Hope to all Nigerians,” he said.

He said the commemoration of the administration’s first anniversary offered the opportunity to present the government’s scorecard to the Nigerian people, by telling the story of what had been done so far to fulfil pledges and promises made to the people.