02 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Lagos — In early 2001 following a visit to Moscow, President Vladimir Putin sent 40 experts from TPE (TyazhPromExport), the original builders of the Ajaokuta Steel Company to assess the plant and determine what was required to revive and commission it but thereafter, President Olusegun Obasanjo failed to provide the funds required.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that on March 7, 2001, President Obasanjo, Bola Ige and others visited Russia (Putin was the president then) and signed a bilateral agreement for the strengthening of relations, development of the Nigerian steel sector and transfer of technology, among others.
The agreement led to Vladimir Putin sending 40 experts from TyazhPromExport, TPE (original builders) to conduct the technical evaluation of Ajaokuta steel plant.
For three months, it was gathered that the Russians worked along with Nigerian-Russian trained engineers. They returned to Russia and prepared six volumes of detailed technical and the financial reports.
In the six volumes technical and financial report, TPE’s submission, it was determined that $421 million was required for first phase completion which includes a Sulphuric Acid Plant and the modification of the Pig Cast Machines were additional variations made.
Sources close to Ajaokuta Steel Company said President Obasanjo promised to release the money but months after, all he did was instruct the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC to guarantee a $400 million loan to be made available from BNP Paribas. However, the money was not secure.
In an effort to secure this loan for the revival of Ajaokuta, the Board and Management of ASCL contacted UNIVERSAL GENERAL COMPANY (UGC), a UK Company, which agreed to grant a loan of $600m to ASCL while Putin directed TPE to serve as Nigeria’s guarantor for the facility. BNP Paribas accepted.
After the $600 million was secured, Vladimir Putin waited for President Obasanjo to meet up his own part of the agreement but the Russsian President got the silent treatment.
After a long period of wait, it was in March 2003, President Putin wrote to Obasanjo to express his concerns.
Sweetcrude Reports obtained a copy of the letter written in Russian but translated with a help of a Ukrainian.
In the letter, Putin said: Dear Mr. President,
“As we mentioned to you during our meetings in Moscow in March 2001, trade and economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Federal Republic of Nigeria has significant potential and good prospects for further development and deepening of relations.
“One of the important directions of cooperation between our countries in this sphere is the completion of construction and commissioning of the metallurgical plant in Ajaokuta town. The realisation of this plant would contribute to the solution of a number of economic and social challenges faced by Nigeria of a strategic nature, setting an example of partnership in the field of industry and high technologies, to lay the foundation for new joint plans in the energy sector, telecommunications and petroleum refining.
“The Russian side has completed the preparation of technical proposals for the company in Ajaokuta and worked through issues of financial provision. We hope that the State enterprise VO “Tyazhpromexport” and his partner in Nigeria will soon be able to successfully conclude negotiations on this large-scale project and to begin its realisation.
“Using this opportunity, Mr President, I would like to confirm our mindset for a comprehensive strengthening of Russian-Nigerian relations.”
Two months after, on the 8th May 2003, President Obasanjo responded to President Putin stating: Dear Mr. President:
“First of all, allow me to thank you for your kind message (meaning the message of Vladimir V. Putin on March 5 this year on the question of completion of Ajaokuta metallurgical plant – approx. Interpreter). Ajaokuta really occupies an important place in our agenda, and I appreciate the fact that you will also find this project a priority in our bilateral relations.
“Using this opportunity, I want to express my appreciation for your prompt response to my request for the urgent delivery of SU-27 aircraft. As you know, I had a telephone conversation on this subject with the Chairman of the Government, M. Kasyanov, who in accordance with your instructions ensured that the Russian Government will take all necessary measures for the supply of the aircraft SU-27 as soon as possible.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, the urgency of the request which existed on the telephone conversation with the Chairman of government decreased a little. Therefore, we have to postpone the purchase of the SU-27 planes for a while.
“In conclusion, I would like to express to you my belief that numerous new challenges to international peace, security and development make it desirable to establish a permanent link between Nigeria and Russia to exchange views on actual issues of common interest.
“This could be accomplished by regular contacts between our Heads of State, and in some specific cases – between the national security advisers and Ministers of foreign affairs. Special situations could be of periodic consultations on strategic issues, including exchange on issues of international security views and information, including terrorism.
“Nigeria sees Russia as a reliable partner and friend, appreciates its contribution to international peace and stability.
“In this regard, I would be very grateful if we could conduct consultations before “Group of Eight” summit. I am sure that cooperation with Russia will also strengthen the leading role of Nigeria as a guarantor of peace and stability in West Africa, in response to our common national interests in a broad international context.
“Please accept my best wishes and the assurance of its highest consideration.”
In June 2003, after the mutual bilateral letters were exchanged, our sources said President Obasanjo with the technical documents at his disposal, concessioned NIOMCO and ASCL to SolGas Energy, an unqualified company with zero experience or capacity to operate a mine or steel plant.
The company was said to be headed by Seun Oyefeso who was a close friend of Gbenga Obasanjo.
Eventually, reports had it that SolGas fumbled in confusion around Ajaokuta and Itakpe and then illegally sub-consessioned both plants to Pramod Mittal’s Isplat which was converted to GINL.
Consequently, Putin felt betrayed by Obasanjo who visited and pleaded for Russia to return back to Ajaokuta only to turn around the moment he had the relevant documents at hand.
GINL were not properly engaged by Nigeria in the first place. Hence late President Yar’Adua terminated their contract and they took Nigeria to the arbitration in London.
GINL then hired PwC to help pulled strings and with the efforts of Adoke to make Nigeria guilty of economic crimes against her.