By Kreazetofa Odey
The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill to provide for the withdrawal of $1 billion (N360bn) from the excess crude account for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Mill project.
The House also put a stop to federal government’s plan to sell or concession the company.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the bill for an act to provide for the Ajaokuta Steel Company completion fund was sponsored by Hon. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta and 300 other lawmakers.
The minister of mines and steel development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, had recently revealed federal government’s plan to concession the age-old steel project, saying government was no longer ready to ‘waste’ public funds on the project after spending about $10billion without a sheet of steel produced in over 30 years.
The House also passed “a bill for an act to amend the Public Enterprises (privatisation and commercialisation) Act, Cap. p. 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to review the list of enterprises to be privatised, and for related matters”.
When finally passed, the bill will be sent to the Senate for concurrence and forwarded to the president. If signed, the executive would be empowered to withdraw $1 billion (360bn) from the excess crude account to complete the steel project.
Also, the amendment of the Privatisation Act removed the steel plant from the list of public assets which the federal government has powers to privatise or concession.
The House has by this amendment stripped the National Council on Privatisation its exclusive power to decide which firms should be on the schedule.
In his explanation, Hon. Abonta said that removing the plant from the privatisation Act became necessary to “protect the steel comapny, a highly valued national asset. It is necessary to delete it because if we let it remain in the market, overzealous persons will sell it either by omission or commission.”
Also at yesterday’s plenary, the House considered and passed the report of the conference committee on a bill for an act to provide for the Governance and Institutional Framework for the Petroleum Industry (PIGB) and for related matters and approve the recommendations therein.”
The House had passed the PIGB, which is one of the four segments of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), in January 2018
When the bill is finally passed, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would be unbundled into the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated, Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company and National Petroleum Company and Petroleum Equalisation Fund.