Fresh facts emerged yesterday that Minister of Mines and Steel Development Kayode Fayemi disagreed with the House of Representatives over alleged plans by some lawmakers to inject $500 million into the ministry’s budget for Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
The minister allegedly refused to accept the extra-budgetary allocation because the ministry could not source for such funds.
He said the House did not take cognisance of an audit report, which indicated that the Steel Complex requires $1.049 billion to be fully on stream.
But despite two letters sent to the House on why Fayemi and the Minister of State, Bawa Bwari, could not appear before the chamber, the representatives went ahead to pass a vote of no confidence on them.
The Federal Government was said to have rated the action of the House as “probably premeditated”.
A top source in government said the House of Representatives wanted Fayemi to dance to its tunes and the minister resisted.
The source said: “It was purely a case of pressure from the House to railroad the minister to take action on the $500 million, which he had no powers to do.
“The House wanted to use the ministry to legitimise the appropriation of $500 million under the guise of resuscitating the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
“Fayemi however refused to be railroaded into being used for extra-budgetary allocation. This is just the crux of the matter.
“There was no way the ministry could source for $500 million but the House insisted that the allocation must be in the ministry’s budget. Where will either the Federal Government or the ministry get such a budget?
“Appropriation is about being realistic, the minister could not build in $500 million into his ministry’s budget what he did not ask for. The House was so passionate about the cash as if there was more to it.
“Reports from experts have shown that $500 million cannot resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel Complex. By the ministry’s records, about $1.049 billion is actually required to put the steel complex fully on stream.
“It was curious that the House was harping on $500 million component to complete the complex without reference to the balance of $549 million for the auxiliary facilities that will me make it functional
“An audit report by the House also indicated that it is better to source for about $700 million and build a modern steel complex within a record time than sinking $500 million on Ajaokuta Steel Complex.”
The source added: “Even if the House wanted $500 million for Ajaokuta Steel Complex, it should engage the Executive arm through the Presidency instead of fighting a proxy war with a minister and taking issues personal.
“At the appropriate time, Nigerians will know what actually transpired and why the House angrily passed a vote of no confidence on Fayemi.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “The minister did not shun the House invitation contrary to insinuations. In fact, two letters were sent to the House requesting for a shift in the day of appearance.
“The whole decision of the House was like a premeditated action. But the government is already looking into it.”
In a February 27, letter to Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu, the two ministers explained why they could not honour the invitation of the House.
The letter said in part: “I write to respectfully acknowledge the receipt of your letter, reference NASS/ SPK/ADM/VOL. II/123 dated 16th February, 2018 on the above subject and to convey to the Honourable Speaker that the honourable ministers will be unavoidably absent in this Special Debate session of the sector.
“The honourable minister, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his counterpart, the Honourable Minister of State, Hon. Abubakar Bawa Bwari are slated for official engagements during the scheduled period of the debate.
“The honourable minister has prior diplomatic schedule engagement in preparation to the focal labs of ERGP relating to the mining sector while the Minister of State will be leading the ministry’s delegation to Canada to attend the PDAC Conference.
“While regretting the ministry’s inability to attend, the honourable ministers greatly appreciate the Hon. Speaker and his members on the interest and genuine concern shown to the sector in organising a debate to discuss a way forward on the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
In a March 1 , 2018 letter to the Speaker by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu, the Ministers said:
“I present to you compliments of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and wish to refer to your NASS/ SPK/ADM/VOL. II/235 on the above subject matter (Invitation to Special Session of the House of Representatives at the Sectoral Debate on Iron and steel Sector).
“As earlier stated in our letter to you, regrettably, the honourable minister would not be able to honour your invitation to the sectoral debate on Iron and Steel Sector due to reasons adduced.
“Furthermore, the ministry wish to take a strong exception to the content of your letter in paragraph 4 that insinuates that the proposed concessionaire have tied the hands of the ministry. With due respect, we regard this statement as unfair in view of the cordial relationship that exists between our two ministers and the Hon. Speaker and the leadership of the House Committee on Steel and Metallurgy.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development’s hands have not been tied by any imagined proposed concessionaire.
“This ministry under the leadership of the two ministers is totally committed to the completion and function of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant in view of the fact that steel is the most important engineering material and backbone of industrialization in any economy.”