By Adedapo Adesanya
A new set of funds amounting to N1.46 billion will come into the country for the reinstatement of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, which has been laying fallow for over three decades.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, confirmed this in Lagos on Tuesday. He noted that the funds will come from two sources, with $1 billion from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and $460 million from the Russian Export Centre.
Mr Adegbite disclosed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be sealed by all parties in the agreement this month to guide the transactions.
“Contract agreement with the Japanese government would also be signed and it would take about two or three years to execute it. “Ajaokuta Steel has been on since 1979. For us to industrialize, we need to have steel production in Nigeria.
“We had done much in the past to start production at Ajaokuta. But somewhere along the line, we missed it and Ajaokuta was never completed,” the Minister said.
He, however, pointed out that in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, the coming on board of the companies would help support the nation’s economy, including in the provision of employment, technology development, and conservation of foreign exchange.
“President Muhammadu Buhari said we can resuscitate it without spending the revenue that we don’t have. So, we agreed with the Russian government and hopefully, by the end of this month, the MOU will be signed.
“The funding will come from Afreximbank and of course the Russia Export Center. Jointly, they would fund the resuscitation of Ajaokuta and the payback will come from Ajaokuta itself.
“On completion of work, the plant would be operated by Russian experts, based on terms to be stated in the MOU,” the Minister disclosed.
Speaking on the many potential that the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant would have on the economy, Mr Adegbite said it would make the country one of the best mining destinations in the world, bringing about more investments and the country would slowly move away from the dependence on oil as there was a wealth of gold, bartye, bitumen, and iron one.
He added that there was a collaboration with the state governments in order to bring about rapid development of the sector, adding that local and foreign investors would have the needed assistance to establish their investments in the country.
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