15 September 2016, Abuja – The Federal Government on Wednesday said it had not conceded the control of the Ajaokuta Steel Company to any foreign firm, describing insinuations to that effect in some quarters as misleading.
The government, which also expressed concern over the menace of illegal miners in the country, currently estimated at 15 million, said there was no official engagement with anybody on the ASC.
The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, represented by his Technical Adviser, Mr. Egghead Odewale, stated this when the Executive Director of a non-governmental organisation, CSR-in-Action, Bekeme Masade, led a team of civil society organisations on a courtesy visit to him.
Fayemi, however, said the original concession agreement that was signed between Nigeria, Global Steel Holding Limited and Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited “has been re-modified.”
The meeting was meant to engage the minister and critical stakeholders on the forthcoming conference on sustainability in the extractive industries scheduled for next month.
Fayemi said, “The original concession agreement that was signed between the Federal Government of Nigeria, Global Steel Holding Limited and Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited has been re-modified. It has been modified to decouple Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited from Nigeria Iron Ore Mining Company in Itakpe.
“What that also portends is that Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited now has seven years of their original concession to complete the mining operation to operate neo-coal in Itakpe; whereas Ajaokuta has been reverted to the government of Nigeria. So, it is now been held by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Speaking on those he called artisanal miners and those who work under the radar, the minister said the menace of illegal mining was part of the developmental challenges in the country.
He said, “Our approach is not a law and order approach to be able to regularise the operations of these illegal miners who work under the radar. Our approach is to incentivise them to formalise their processes, to formalise their operations and to be able to get them to contribute to public revenue and for the benefit of their own operation so that they will be able to benefit from the mining operations that we undertake day in day out, because we are marking a process to undertake an extension service for artisanal miners.
“I won’t say we have credible data on their number but there are estimates that put their population at between 10 million and 15 million. There are those who are investing in mining precious stones and ornamented stones; there are some who are investing in mining gold, quarry and the rest. They are diverse; so, for now, I don’t have specific figures in terms of the quantity that is being carted away under the radar by these artisanal miners.”
Fayemi also expressed optimism that Nigeria would soon be using coal as an alternative source of energy.
He stated, “The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has set itself the policy on energy needs and it has proposed that coal will contribute 30 per cent to the energy needs. We have dedicated that coal licences will only be awarded to those who want to generate electricity and we are collaborating with the FMPWH on this.
“The process is on; there are certain processes you need to fulfil. You need to have a licence for power generation before you acquire a licence for mining. Since the inception of this administration, no licence for coal has been awarded, which is not for the purpose of power generation.
“So, if you acquire a licence for mining coal, you have to also have that for power. As far as we are concerned, the process is easy. Once the application is filed and it is not encumbered by any legal or existing holder of a licence, the licence is awarded, but it must be for power generation only. Quite a number of companies have applied directly either to us or to the FMPWH.”