Steel politics seems to be dominating the world’s agenda at this time; President Donald Trump is leading the US in a trade war with the EU, China and Brazil over steel. In implementing the ‘America First’ ideology, Trump recently slammed a 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminum imports. This has led to the EU and China threatening to strike back at the US.
Back home, super political powers are locked in a battle of supremacy and it’s over steel too. The lower chambers of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives, is presently engaged in a ‘roforofo’ fight with the duo of Dr Kayode Fayemi and Bawa Bwari Abubakar, the Minister for Solid Minerals and Minister of State respectively over the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
Like petulant ten year olds, the war between the two parties mentioned above has snowballed from quiet grumblings to firing missives, hoisting each other on petards and even the issuance of a vote of no confidence on the minister and his minister of state; responding, Fayemi has denounced the attacks on him and his counterpart minister as unfair.
One can actually gather that the kernel of the matter lies on whether to concession the Ajaokuta Steel Complex or to inject funds into the complex in order to have it completed. For Fayemi and those at the ministry for solid minerals, concessioning the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, is the fastest and realistic way to get Ajaokuta working. On its part, the House of Representatives believes otherwise; they claim that 500 million Dollars should fix Ajaokuta and enable it commence production and are thus opposed to it been concessioned.
It will however surprise readers to know that the concessioning to completion option taken by Fayemi was approved by this same House of Representatives when it approved the sum of N 2,096,500,000 for the concessioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex in the 2017 appropriations bill. Does it not raise a red flag somewhere that the House should now be doing a volte face on a law made and passed into law by non-other than its own members? Perhaps, if this law had been passed by previous assemblies, say the sixth or seventh, then it wouldn’t have been alarming as it sounds now, but for the same house to seek to reverse itself, speaks volumes of the way and manner we conduct legislative business in this country.
Another thing to note is that while the House is clamouring for the injection of 500,000 million Dollars into Ajaokuta, with the assurance that such would immediately get Ajaokuta chugging and spitting steel, the Ministry of Solid Minerals largely disagrees with the romantic bandying of figures, arguing that a technical audit of the plant, which will commence in less than six weeks, ought to reveal the exact amount as well as completion state. Even at that, is it prudent to take 500 million Dollars or even a billion Dollars and plunge it into Ajaokuta when such funds can do much better in other sectors? Again, what assurance have we that the money won’t end up in private pockets as the 8 billion Dollars reportedly spent on Ajaokuta from its inception in 1979 till date?
It is however not surprising that the many intrigues arising from this matter and that will further arise, as well as the snarky brickbats aimed at Fayemi and Abubakar on this matter, serve as a pointer to the fact that the era of vested interest politics in Nigeria is not over. Is it not amusing that the only sin of the duo mentioned above was their failure to attend the 4th Sectoral Debate on Ajaokuta Steel Company after attending the first three and notifying the House of their inability to attend the fourth?
In Fayemi’s wisdom, if $8bn has been sunk into Ajaokuta without an ounce of steel to show for it, shouldn’t we then turn to concessioning the company to proven investors who will get the company to work without draining further, the nation’s finances?
The House of Representatives should know that gone are the days when it can hold this country to ransom. I urge its leadership to toe the line of reason and support the only realistic option for Ajaokuta to flourish and that is its concession to competent foreign investors, anything else and it will surely spell the blues for our nation’s dream of producing our own steel.
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