At least 11 companies are jostling to take over the Ajaokuta Steel Company, Mines and Steel Development minister, Olamilekan Adegbite, disclosed on Thursday.
Mr Adegbite made a presentation on the achievement of his ministry during the 9th edition of PMB Scorecard series, organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture.
According to him, the Buhari government had been able to resolve all contending legal issues with the steel company and was in the process of concessioning it to a competent bidder.
Ajaokuta Steel Company was concessioned in 2005 by then President Olusegun Obasanjo to Global Steel, which resulted in litigation and a demand of $7 billion by Global Steel.
“Things went sour and they took us to court. The court case went on for about 12 years, but thanks to a patriotic Nigerian lawyer in the UK who handled the case very effectively,” Mr Adegbite explained.
“Global Steel came with a demand of seven billion dollars, but our lawyer was able to puncture holes in their case and at the end, they had to settle for 496 million dollars.”
He said that the judgement was favourable to Nigeria.
According to the minister, the Buhari regime had plans to make Ajaokuta Steel Company functional before the end of 2022, but for the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
He, however, said that the government was still committed to ensuring that the company was concessioned to a competent bidder with technical and financial capacities to optimise its potential.
“We were supposed to make the plant work in 2022. One of the presidential mandates was to resolve all contending issues on Ajaokuta.
“In 2019, at the Russian-Africa summit in Moscow, President Muhammadu Buhari discussed the idea of resuscitating Ajaokuta with President Vladimir Putin.
“An agreement was reached for Russian engineers to come in for a technical audit by March 2020.
“But the emergence of the first and second waves of COVID-19 stalled the plan.
“We hope that we can give Ajaokuta to a company, not just on concession basis, but on equity participation,” he said.
He said that out of the 11 companies bidding, three were Russian.
“We are talking of companies who intend to bring their own monies into Ajaokuta to make sure that it works.
“The plant is still good if we put in the right amount of capital, it will start producing in less than two years.
“Government has employed a transaction adviser who will guide us through the process,” he said.