Prof. Abdullahi Shehu, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, has said that the Federal Government is exploring ways to resuscitate one of Nigeria’s largest assets, the Ajaokuta Steel Company, with potential Russian investors.
Shehu made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Moscow, stating that Russia has always been very good technical partners of Nigeria.
Shehu said that resuscitating Ajaokuta steel company was one of the agendas of discussion between Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, and Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, when they met during the First Africa-Russia Summit in Sochi, Russia, in 2019.
He said that although the Russian Company, under the then Soviet Union, built the Steel plant to over 90 per cent completion before they left in 1983, the Federal government has strategies in place on how the company would be revived.
Shehu, however, noted that it would be wiser to engage the company that had an understanding of the setting up of the Steel plant to resuscitate it.
“The Nigeria of our dream is our choice to be made by Nigerians themselves so there is nothing sacrosanct that it must be the Russians to construct or finish Ajaokuta.
“But it is important that you bring back the people who built something, who know the history, who have the in and out knowledge about it, who have the template to do something for you that is sustainable but that also has to be decided by Nigeria, not by another person.
“So during the Africa-Russian Summit that was held in Sochi here in Russia, President Buhari met with President Putin and they discussed the possibility of resuscitating the Ajaokuta steel.
“Now, this responsibility lies with the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
“The company that constructed Ajaokuta was a Soviet Company at that time, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, of course the Company is still here in Russia, it is called Tyazpromoexport.
“So discussion started with Tyazpromoexport, and there was the need for a tripartite agreement between Nigeria, Tyazpromoexport and the Afro-Exim bank. That started but again, we are still at the level of discussion until now.
“Until the Nigerian government says come and do this, the company cannot just come on its own.”
When asked on the alleged privatisation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company by the Federal Government, Shehu said that the government knows the best policies to put in place to manage all its national assets.
“I heard recently that there was a discussion by government to privatise the company or to do an assessment or something like that, I do not know.
“But as at when I came last year, there was a proposal for the Russian Company to go and audit the company, to do an assessment to determine the status before giving the cost implication for resuscitating the company.
“I think government has its own strategies, maybe they are going to leave it open for other companies to bid, that I do not know,” Shehu added.
NAN reports that as Nigeria looks towards diversifying its economy and moving from an oil-reliant nation, the Federal government has been looking at revamping other sectors of the economy.