The Minister of Mines and Steel, Olamilekan Adegbite, on Monday, said the Ajeokuta Steel Mill is 90 percent complete and may be functional by early 2023.
Adegbite made the remarks while making an appearance on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.
The development of the steel mill was started in the 1970s but has evaded completion several decades after.
The Minister, on Monday, said the current revitalisation plan for the steel mill was kick-started in October 2019, when a Nigerian delegation, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, attended the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia.
In Sochi, President Buhari invited the Russians to help complete the steel mill on a Build-Operate-Transfer model, Adegbite said.
The Russians agreed and were set to arrive in Nigeria in March 2020, with the project to last for about two years.
However, the coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner into the wheels as the countries closed their borders to halt the virus and the Russians were unable to fly into Nigeria for an on-site audit.
Adegbite said once international borders are open, the process will resume and Ajaokuta may become operation between late 2022 and early 2023.
What the Minister Said?
“I came into office last year and the process to actually kickstart Ajaokuta this time around started in October last year. I was privileged to be with Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia. And, of course, on the sidelines of that summit, we had a bilateral (agreement) with the Russian government).
“And one of the things President Buhari presented as our requests, was for the Russians to come and help to complete Ajaokuta on a build-operate-transfer basis, so Ajaokuta will not be a burden to government again. And, of course, it was accepted.
“Don’t forget that Ajaokuta itself was built by the Russians and Ukrainians under the Soviet Union. So we’ve gone back to the original builder and said, look there’s just a little bit to complete this – some will tell you it was 95 percent completed, 90 percent, depending on what sector you are looking at. But Ajaokuta is advanced. Overall, if you look at the whole complex, it’s about 90 percent completed.
“So we said let the Russians come in, complete it, operate it for a while to recoup the money that’s going to be used to complete it and, of course make their profit, and transfer ownership back to Nigeria. That is the basis, on a government-to-government basis. And that was the proposal which we gave to the Russians and they accepted. And we are in that process.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things down. We would have moved further than we are now. The plan was for the Russians – after the exchange of some papers and of course a few meetings (we had a meeting in Cairo) – the Russians were supposed to come down sometime in March to do what you call evaluation; that’s the technical audit of the complex itself. They need to look at the machinery, the complex, everything and say, look for us to kickstart this thing and bring it to a working condition, it’s going to cost x amount. That’s what the technical audit is all about. After negotiation of that bill that will be submitted, then the Russians will move in.
“The audit itself was supposed to take three months. If they had come in March, perhaps we would have had the engineers working on-site by now. Unfortunately because of the pandemic, this is August, they are yet to come for the audit. The audit has to be done physically.
“So we are looking at – as soon as the international border restrictions are lifted, they will come in and do the audit.
“The whole thing was supposed to take about two years, for them to complete and start operations. This, of course, has been delayed a little. So 2020 was not in the reckoning. If they had started in 2020, we would be looking at 2022. We are hoping that we can still be on track, fast track a few things and, of course, still be able to do maybe the last quarter of 2022 or early 2023 for Ajaokuta to come onstream.”