The Federal Government on Thursday said it would investigate how the non-functioning Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited accrued N33bn in electricity debt which prompted the Transmission Company of Nigeria to disconnect the company from the national grid.
The Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Audu, revealed this to State House correspondents after meeting President Bola Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the TCN disconnected ASCL from the national grid as the moribund company failed to clear a debt of N33bn owed to the NBET and service providers.
The N33bn comprises N30.85bn for energy and capacity delivered by NBET and N2.22bn owed to service providers. Addressing correspondents, Audu minister vowed to consider the matter.
He marveled at how the company accumulated such debt in electricity consumption when it had not been in operating in full capacity.
“I mean these are some of the things that need to be clearly looked into. One of the things I spoke to the MD of Ajaokuta today, and this was one of the questions I asked and we’re going to get to the bottom of it: why consumption of so much electricity in a place that is not operating at full capacity.
“Part of what we also need to do is that we’re trying to revive Ajaokuta in a collegiate system, in piecemeal, and so we may not have the capacity to be able to pay all those outstanding amounts immediately.
“Part of what the MD of Ajaokuta told me is that most of them money is in interest payments. And NBET, the electricity company that has disconnected it is also a government agency,” Audu explained.
Shuaibu also said the FG would not allow its agency, NBET, to hinder the effort to revive the steel company, which has been out of operation for about 45 years.
He said, “So, if we as a government ministry, government agency are trying to revive Ajaokuta working hard to do that, we should not have another hand within the same government making things very difficult for us.
“And so, part of what we plan to do is to sit down on the table in the next few days as quickly as possible to be able to come up with a plan so that they can put it back on the grid and put things back in order.
“Is a gradual process Ajaokuta cannot be revived overnight. This is an institution, this is a plant that has not been working for 45 years, it is a difficult task to try and get it back on track.
“So, we need the support of the entire government apparatus, we need support of stakeholders, we need support of everyone to be able to do this difficult job.”
He said the neither the President nor himself could execute such an undertaking alone adding that “We need the support of everyone including the electricity company to be able to help us to get this project back on track so that we can create the hundreds of thousands of jobs I want to create for Nigerians.”
The minister also revealed that his ministry has received President Tinubu’s nod to create a committee to scout for an appropriate site to establish a new steel plant in the country.
He recalled that Presidnt Bola Tinubu had engineered an agreement to establish the $5bn plant with Jindal Steel of India on the sidelines of the G20 summit in India last September.
Audu explained, “So, I briefed Mr. President and I’ve met with representatives of Jindal steel, and they’re very serious about their commitment.
“And we’re currently looking for a land that is close to gas station that has a port and is close to the natural or mineral resources such as, you know, iron ore and the likes to be able to get them the ideal location. Either they set up a greenfield or they acquire an existing plant, such as the Delta steel plant.
“So, those are the things on the table. Mr. President has given us go ahead to set up a committee with some very critical stakeholders within the government, including the likes of the minister of finance the CME, including the likes of the Minister of trade and investments, to the Minister of Defense, Minister of Solid Minerals and myself to be able to get this thing running and get it off the ground.”
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.