Ajaokuta Steel facility.

The federal government has blamed the Coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine for its inability to revitalize the Ajaokuta Steel company.

The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, gave the excuse on Thursday during a weekly ministerial briefing in Abuja, saying the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will likely not complete the project before its expiration of tenure next year.

The minister said before the pandemic, the government had successfully convinced Russia, the original builders of the steel complex, to evaluate its status and consider completing the steel facility, but could not proceed with the negotiations due to force-majeure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Adegbite said the deal with Russia involved a $2 million fee for technical audit to ascertain the state of the facility before work could begin, and that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the payment.

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“We made frantic efforts to continue the negotiations with Russia after the lockdown, but progress was stalled again due to the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” the minister added.

Mr Adegbite had said in December 2021 that the technical assessment would be conducted early in 2022. The audit was to check any equipment or processes that could have become obsolete during the more than 40 years the facility has been in existence, he told SPGlobal.

The multibillion-dollar Ajaokuta mill was built by the Soviets between 1979 and the mid-1990s, but has never produced steel as the project was never completed. It was also mismanaged.

Mr Adegbite said the government would initiate “irreversible processes” to ensure the resumption and eventual completion of the steel facility, possibly, beyond the Buhari administration.

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