Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate at the weekend revealed that the total sum of N3 billion would be required to resuscitate the Ajaokuta steel rolling mill which has been under construction since 1980.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines and Steel Development, Senator Tanko Al-Makura, said the multi-billion dollar project may remain a dream if N3 billion is not provided for the reactivation of the 21 plants next year.
This is just as he lamented that workers of the complex working in the Mining Cadastral Office will not be getting their monthly salaries from January 2021 as World Bank responsible for that had already informed the country that it’s pulling out of the gesture from next year.
Al-Makura, who spoke to journalists at the weekend, expressed concern that the N3 billion required to facilitate the engagement of experts from Russia for the reactivation of the 21 plants in the Iron and Steel Complex, is not included in the 2021 budget earmarked for the Ministry of Mines, Steel and Solid Minerals.
He said he had made presentation to that effect last Thursday to the Senate Committee on Appropriation during presentation of the 2021 budget estimates of the ministry to the committee.
According to him, the remarks made by the Appropriation Committee headed by Senator Jibrin Barau for the provision of the money in the final report on the 2021 budget, was not assuring enough.
The senator said: “Nigeria has spent a lot on the Ajaokuta project than to allow just N3billion to make her decade-old efforts a mirage. Resuscitation of the Ajaokuta is key to the industrialisation and development of the country. The Mines, Steel and Solid Minerals Ministry appealed to us during budget defence to effect appropriation for the N3 billion.
“Since we cannot on our own as joint Committees on Mines, Steel and Solid Minerals increase the enveloped budget presented to us by the ministry, we pushed the appeal to the Appropriation Committee for the required appropriation. The N3billion is very necessary to be provided for in saving the iron and steel project from total comatose,” he said.
Al-Makura said the completion of the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Project would serve as required catalyst for the diversification of the country’s economy which is one of the key policies of President Muhamnadu Buhari-led government.
On workers who may not be collecting their salaries from January, the former governor of Nasarawa State explained that they are contract staff working at the Mining Cadastral Office of the Complex and whose monthly salaries have been footed in the past years from interventions from the world Bank, which had notified the country that it would stop the gesture after December this year.
When contacted on the phone yesterday evening as to whether the N3 billion would be appropriated as additional fund for the Iron and Steel Company, Senator Barau was evasive.
He said although diversification of the country’s economy is a necessity at this time, paucity of funds remains the stumbling block in acceding to such demands since the N13.08 trillion 2021 budget was projected on expected revenues and not monies already kept somewhere.