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FG fires back at Atiku over comment on Ajaokuta plant

FG fires back at Atiku over comment on Ajaokuta plant

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, on Thursday, tackled Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over his promise to fix the comatose Ajaokuta steel plant if elected in next month’s election.

Atiku had at a recent campaign rally in Kogi State said he would fix the plant if elected the next president.

But at a press briefing in Abuja which was part of the scorecard series of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration, Mohammed described Atiku’s statement as deceitful and borne out of desperation for power.

According to him, Atiku who midwifed over the badly implemented concession has no right to either accuse the present administration of the company’s present or promise to fix it.

“A little bit of background will show that the former vice president was deceiving Nigerians when he made that promise,” Mohammed stated.

“Ajaokuta was concessioned to the Global Steel Industry in 2004 by the regime of then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Who was in charge of that administration’s privatisation programme? Atiku Abubakar. That concession that turned out to be a mess was terminated by another PDP administration.”

Explaining the “failed concession”, the minister said the concessionaire, Global Steel Industry, took Nigeria to court, asking for $7 billion, and that the case lingered for 12 years until the Buhari administration stepped in and finally settled for $496 million.

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Out of the amount, the Federal Government made a bulk payment of $250 million and agreed to pay the balance in five instalments.

He added that till date, the government has paid a total of $446 million out of the agreed $496 million.

“We will make the last payment of $50 million next month and Ajaokuta will revert fully to us, ending the shameful and failed concession by the administration in which Atiku Abubakar served as vice president,” the minister explained.

He said the government was still in talks with the potential investors in the steel company as he recalled the assurances by then minister of mines and steel development, last month, that Ajaokuta will be concessioned in equitable terms before the end of the present administration.

“What I am saying in essence is that the problems facing Ajaokuta was the poorly-thought-out and poorly-executed concession by the regime in which Atiku was vice president, and a regime under which he presided over the failed privatisation programme.

Mohammed warned Nigerians against what he called “snake oil salesmen, who engage in deceit just to swindle them.”

“The solution to Ajaokuta does not lie in the hands of the same people who scuttled the development of the country’s steel industry through a questionable concession. Nigerians beware! Don’t allow yourselves to be conned twice,” the minister warned.