Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele revealed earlier this week that the Nigerian government was planning to privatise the Ajaokuta steel plant as part of an ongoing privatisation effort. But the vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who heads the Economic Management Team, has debunked this as untrue, according to Yahaya Bello, the Governor of Kogi state.
Bello who met with Osinbajo to express his concerns over the report offered this clarification to the press.
“There is nothing like that. He (Osinbajo) said there is no plan by the Federal Government to sell Ajaokuta Steel Company. The VP said Ajaokuta is an asset of the Federal Government and that they are looking into how best to make good use of that particular complex for the benefit of Nigerians at large,” he said.
Why it matters: About $8 billion has been spent by previous administrations without any result in a bid to resuscitate the factory. A recent technical audit by the current administration under the former Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, revealed that it would cost about $652million to get the factory working again. The position of the Ministry was that the government would not spend on the project but would rather privatise the plant through a concession, a thinking that drew the ire of the National Assembly which seems to favour the nationalisation of the plant which it determines as a strategic national asset.
Emefiele’s statement on the planned sale of Ajaokuta is consistent with Fayemi’s position which seemed to be the known position of the administration. Emefiele had said: “I am aware, as a member of the National Council on Privatisation, that more are coming and I believe in due course that the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) will make this available for us. I am aware of the situation of Ajaokuta Steel Company of Nigeria. It is also on the cart, first for a total review of the process of privatisation and payment, so that our aluminum sector can eventually come alive.”
However, the recent denial by Osinbajo, if Governor Bello is to be believed, highlights a policy inconsistency that has become an hallmark of the current administration and it remains unclear what the official position on Ajaokuta is.
Something to note: We are in.a political season and the reversal or denial as the case may be of this policy might be connected to politics where the popular opinion appears to be against the decision to privatise. Both the FG and the Kogi governor appear to be apprehensive about the fallout of the decision. Note that the unions have outrightly rejected any move to privatise the plant.