The Minister of Mines & Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, has said the reactivation of Ajaokuta Steel Company would have to wait till the completion of the joint audit process ordered by the federal government on August 1.
Following the signing of the modified agreement to concession the Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Company to the Indian firm, Global Steel Holdings Limited, the federal government had ordered a joint independent audit on the entire steel complex within 80 days to enable the formal handing of the plant.
But, the Minister told PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview on Friday that government would not proceed with the reactivation of Ajaokuta Steel Company until the audit was completed, despite being inundated with requests from investors interested in taking over the multi-billion dollar plant.
“The implementation of the mining road map has begun with the revised concession on the National Iron Ore Mining Company Limited (NIOMCO). But, conditions precedent in the agreement included a joint audit between the federal government and the Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited. The review is ongoing now.
“There is a period in the agreement (150 days) within which the audit should be completed. The agreement was signed on August 1. So, we are on course for the exercise to be completed as soon as possible. Once that is done to the satisfaction of all parties, the legal release of Ajaokuta Steel Company to the federal government would follow immediately,” the minister explained.
Despite that government was yet to advertise formally calling for expression of interest, Mr. Fayemi said government has been receiving several requests from many countries interested in taking over the plant.
Apart from private sector operators and some state-owned enterprises in Nigeria, the minister said the ministry was also inundated with requests from Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, and others around the world.
“Government believes once all the encumbrances are sorted out and it is put out on public offer, a lot of interest would be received,” he said.
The minister said as part of the mining road map, government was considering a bill seeking the establishment of a mining regulatory inspectorate for the sector.
He said the inspectorate, modelled after the Department of Petroleum Resources in the oil and gas sector, or the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission in the power sector, would combine the functions of three units in the ministry, namely the mining inspectorate division, mining cadastral office and mines environmental compliance directorate.
The proposed inspectorate, the minister said, would broaden the scope of activities of the three units in the ministry to help cover the gaps identified in the monitoring and enforcement roles of the laws in the sector.
Apart from issuing operational licenses to prospective investors, he said the inspectorate would monitor the sector to ensure compliance to regulations by operators, while also regulating issues relating to health and safety practices, to enable government tackle threats to the environment.
Besides, he said, a National Council on Mining has been established to help sort out the relationship between state and federal governments.
The Council, the minister explained, would provide the forum for state and federal governments as well as related agencies, civil society groups, non-governmental and academic institutions, to interact and share ideas on critical issues affecting the mining sector and agree on the way forward.
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