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Nigeria not handing over Ajaotuka Steel Plant to British firm. Here’s why

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Nigeria’s Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, has refuted reports that the Federal government of Nigeria plans to hand over the Ajaokuta Steel plant to a British firm for rehabilitation.

The refuter was revealed via a statement issued by the minister’s Special Assistant on Media, Ayodeji Adeyemi on Monday.

The statement is in reaction to a report on some media outlets that the Ajaokuta Steel plant will be handover to a British firm,

“A local company in partnership with a British company has offered to execute the technical audit at no cost to Nigeria and with no preconditions. This was what I said at the media parley at the statehouse and not that Ajaokuta would be handed over to a British company for rehabilitation.” The statement reads.

The minister further explains that the ministry’s partnership with a Russian firm on the resuscitation of the plant due to international sanctions placed on Russia, which have also impacted Russian firms and businesses.

“The minister clarified that a local Nigerian firm with a British partner had expressed interest in carrying out the TECHNICAL AUDIT for free with no preconditions. The minister pointed out that the federal government had been in discussion with a Russian firm Messrs TPE (nominated by the Russian government) towards conducting the technical audit. The war between Ukraine and Russia has caused a setback to the proposed plan.” The statement concludes.

The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) is located in Ajaokuta, Kogi State, Nigeria on a 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) site starting in 1979, it is the largest steel mill in Nigeria, and the coke oven and by-products plant are larger than all the refineries in Nigeria combined. However, the project was mismanaged and remains incomplete 40 years later. Three-quarters of the complex has been abandoned, and only the light mills have been put into operation for small-scale fabrication and the production of iron rods.

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Nigeria receives $16bn investment from IOCs

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Heineken Lokpobiri, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), revealed on Monday that the country’s oil and gas industry had received approximately $16.6 billion in investments over the previous 12 months.

He gave updates while speaking in Abuja on the oil industry’s accomplishments since President Bola Tinubu took office on May 29, 2023.

Additionally, in a previous meeting with Olivier Le Peuch, the CEO of Schlumberger Limited, Lokpobiri disclosed that the Federal Government was about to finalize a $20 billion agreement to increase Nigeria’s oil and gas production.

The minister stated, “One of our main objectives has been to create an environment where investments can thrive,” when discussing the steps being taken to draw in investments. The absence of the Petroleum Industry Act and erratic policies had discouraged investment for more than ten years.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that our efforts have rekindled investor confidence in the sector. Notable examples include investments committed to the tune of $5bn and $10bn in deepwater offshore assets; and a $1.6bn investment commitment in oil and gas asset acquisition.

The very high global interest is noted in the ongoing bid round of assets coming online, arising from the recent roadshow activities in the United States and Europe.”

Additionally, Lokpobiri noted that since Tinubu took office, Nigeria has seen a rise in the output of crude oil.

“Our foremost achievement is the significant increase in production. When we took office, production was at approximately 1.1 million barrels per day, including condensates.

“Today, I am proud to report that we have increased our production to approximately 1.7 million barrels per day (inclusive of condensate). This increase is a testament to our relentless efforts to streamline operations and resolve conflict among stakeholders,” the oil minister stated.

Among the actions done to boost the output of crude oil, Lokpobiri mentioned that attempts were made to bring idle oil assets back into service.

To resolve industry conflicts and increase output, he added that ongoing conversations were being held with members of the Independent Petroleum Producers Group and multinational oil firms.

Lokpobiri added, “Resolutions of internal joint venture contracts feud between joint venture partners on critical production fields. Engaging local communities with critical assets running through them to protect the assets, all in a bid to decrease oil theft across the country.

“Consolidating existing security framework with private security firms and government security agencies for pipeline surveillance, which led to a sharp decline in crude oil theft and thus increased production for export.”

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Tax evasion trial of Binance executives postponed until June 14 by Nigerian court

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A Nigerian court Wednesday postponed the tax evasion case against Binance until next month, when the cryptocurrency exchange and two of its officials might potentially be charged, according to the judge.

Authorities were unable to bring U.S. citizen and Binance head of financial crime compliance Tigran Gambaryan to court, which caused the case to standstill. Gambaryan did not give a justification for missing the courtroom.

An Abuja court decided on Friday that Gambaryan, representing Binance, may go to trial in the tax evasion case. In May, Binance CEO Richard Teng charged that Nigeria was creating a hazardous precedent when its executives were invited to the nation and subsequently taken into custody as part of an anti-crypto campaign. The business is contesting the proceedings because it is accused of money laundering and tax evasion.

Four charges of tax evasion are brought against Binance and its executives, Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, a British Kenyan who serves as Binance’s regional manager for Africa. One of the charges is failing to register for taxes with the Federal Inland Revenue Service of Nigeria.

Despite Anjarwalla’s March escape from detention, the lawsuit still lists him as “at large,” which might delay the trial because Nigerian law mandates that all parties must be served before the case can move forward, according to Chukwuka Ikwuazom, the attorney for Gambaryan.

Moses Ideho, a revenue service attorney, stated that Gambaryan should have been brought before the court by the Nigerian jail service and that he was unaware of the reason for his absence. The potential arraignment of Binance and Gambaryan has been postponed until June 14 by Judge Emeka Nwite.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, has charged Binance and the executives with laundering over $35 million in addition to the tax evasion case. On Thursday, there will be a money laundering trial. In the wake of Gambaryan’s detention, Binance has declared that it is closely collaborating with Nigerian authorities.

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