The Senate and the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Privatization has promised to work with other stakeholders to ensure the quick resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company in Kogi State.
The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce made the pledge, on Tuesday when he led other members of the committee on an inspection tour of facilities at the company premises at Ajaokuta.
Murray-Bruce expressed shock that a project in which government had sunk over 4.6 billion dollars could be allowed to be waste away.
He said that a public hearing would be held on the company on Thursday as part of efforts to bring it back on track.
“I am directing the Ministry of Solid Minerals and Steel to get the management of AJaokuta Steel Company to be at the Senate 10 a.m.Thursday morning. I am giving a directive. I am not asking a question.
“The ministry must be represented`; we are going to discuss this in the full view of the Nigerian public and we will not leave there until we find solution to Nigeria’s problems.
“When we are done, we will proceed to see the Vice President. He is head of the Economic Council; We will find solution to this problem; we are not going to come here for fun. This is a very serious issue,” Murray-Bruce said.
The committee blamed the company’s woes on past administrations and attributed the problem bedeviling the company to a lack of coordination.
“ For 22 years, they should have had a plan through the Minister of National Planning. The Minister of National Planning should be the one integrating the policies of any government in power at any particular time.”
He commended the management and staff of the company for their efforts at maintaining the plant facilities, describing them as patriotic Nigerians.
Responding, the Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Company, Mr Isah Onobere cautioned the Federal Government against privatisation of the company until it was fully completed, commissioned and its operations stabilised.
Selling the company at this stage, Onobere argued, would only amount to selling the steel plant off as a scrap and put paid to the country’s quest for technological independence.
He also said that the idea of selling it off, would truncate Nigeria’s ambition of being a major producer of liquid steel in the world.
“ Our steel raw materials would be exported in the interest of the foreign investors and the products therefrom imported back at exorbitant prices as we do with crude oil today,” he said.
Also speaking in the same vein, the President, Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria ( ISSAN), Mr Otori Salihu, urged the government to show genuine commitment to the resuscitation of the company through budgetary provision for the company.
He also advised that government should consider engaging the Russians to fashion out a feasible contract regime that would accelerate the completion of the company.
Other members of the committee on the tour were Sen. Duro Faseyi, Sen. Yahaya Abdulahi, Rep. Babatunde Kolawole, among others.