Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Abubakar Bwari, said that 11 companies indicated interest to operate the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
Bwari announced this while giving a three-year account of stewardship (2016-2018) in Abuja, yesterday. According to him, the federal government is not ready to hand over the company now, as all infrastructure required for the commencement of the company such as rail, dredging of Lokoja and Warri ports are yet to be completed.
He said the company would be handed over to a competent organisation with financial and technical capability, but preferably a Nigeria company, to manage the steel industry as soon as all infrastructure needed were completed.
“The policy of the government is that it will not release Ajaokuta steel just like that; what we are planning to do is to regulate and create enabling environment for the company to strive. Delta steel is now owned by Premium steel. It is no longer in the hands of government because it has been privatised, it has commenced operation but on a small scale level,” he said.
The minister stated that the sector’s revenue generation courtesy of royalties and fees rose from N2.08 billion in 2015 to N3.92 billion in 2017. He said under the present administration’s strategic interventions from 2016, the mining sector witnessed a steady rise in its contribution to the nation’s GDP from 0.33% in 2015 to 0.6% in 2016.
“Overall, the revenue generated by the Ministry from royalties and fees has improved from N2.08 billion in 2015 to N3.92 billion in 2017. Limestone mining has continued to lead in royalties earned by Government,” he said, adding that the record was N2.97billion as at October, 2018.
According to him, a myriad of challenges were facing the sector, the most critical of which was funding, when the Buhari-led administration came on board three years ago, but with the determination of government to develop the sector as a strategy towards economic diversification, most of them, especially the issues of funding, legacy, legislation, poor investment, inadequate geoscience data among others have been addressed.
He said the first step taken by the former Minister and himself was to evolve a roadmap for the reformation of the sector which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2016.
“The most critical challenge facing the sector before the advent of this Administration was poor funding. In 2015, the aggregate capital allocation for the entire Ministry was shy of one billion Naira annually, I am glad to inform you that this has improved tremendously in the last three years.
“To demonstrate in concrete terms the commitment of this Administration to the sector, the sum of N30bn (approx. $100m) was approved as intervention fund for the Ministry to fund exploration projects, generate the needed geosciences data and provide the necessary regulatory framework to enable sectoral growth.
“We have also secured support from the World Bank in the form of a loan of $150m for the Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification (Mindiver) programme,” he said.
He noted that within the period under review, the Mining Cadastre Office (MCO) realised the sum of N5.2 billion as revenue generated through processing and other licensing fees.
The Minister who hinted about a soon to be soon released Mineral Export Guidelines, said the lingering issue of evading payment of royalties or false declarations has been dealt with in the guidelines.
“All mineral exports shall henceforth be inspected by Government appointed independent pre-shipment inspection agents, who shall also render Quantity and Quality control services and monitor Pricing. This is in accordance with the Pre-Shipment Inspection of Exports Act.