The Minister of State for Solid Minerals Development, Mr. Abubakar Bawa-Bwari, said on Thursday that the Federal Government had spent over $10bn on the Ajaokuta Steel Company in the last 35 years.
He also said the government escaped paying damages in excess of $525m to Global Infrastructure Holdings Limited by signing a modified concession agreement with the latter to enable the firm to retain the National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe. The modified seven-year concession agreement was signed on August 1, this year.
NIOMCO was designed to feed Ajaokuta Steel Company with the requisite raw materials to produce steel, but both firms have made little progress.
Bawa-Bwari, who appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation in Abuja, said, “The most important thing is that everybody agrees that Ajaokuta should work. We have spent over $10bn over 35 years and we cannot afford to continue to waste more time.
“This modified agreement is the best option available to government today. This agreement will free us from all the legal issues. We will monitor it and ensure that the GIHL too keeps to its promise that they have turned a new leaf.”
The minister spoke amid protests by steel sector stakeholders, including workers, host communities and the Bureau of Public Enterprises.
Bawa-Bwari said that the present administration signed the agreement to free NIOMCO, Ajaokuta Steel Company and the Delta Steel Company, Ovian-Alaja, from the ‘legal encumbrances’ that had stalled the operations of the steel firms for several years since they were first privatised in 2004.
The minister said that it was the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan that first initiated the modified agreement with the GIHL in 2013 as part of ‘out of court settlement’ for the government’s breach of the original agreement it signed with the Indians in 2004.
He said that the initial concession was to last 25 years with a provision for “automatic renewal.”
However, the minister said the late President Umaru Yar’Adua reversed the privatisation of NIOMCO in 2008 without meeting the requirements of the clauses built into the agreement.
He added that the GIHL reacted by dragging the government before the Court of Arbitration, further crippling the operations of NIOMCO and other steel firms tied to it.
The minister explained how, acting on legal opinion by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Jonathan administration opted for an out of court settlement in the form of a modified concession agreement in 2013.
But he noted that the controversy that surrounded the modified agreement again did not allow for its take-off until the current government acted on it on August 1 this year.
But the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Ahmed Yerima; the Chairman, Sub-committee on Steel, Mr. Gabriel Kolawole, and other lawmakers disagreed with the minister.
For instance, Yerima queried why the BPE was not fully involved in the process.
Some members wondered how the same government that spent over $10bn on Ajaokuta Steel was in a hurry to return to the GIHL just to avoid paying $525m damages.
The BPE, through its acting Director-General, Mr. Vincent Akpotaire, said it had not been fully involved in the privatisation of NIOMCO and Ajaokuta since 2004.
Akpotaire recalled that there was only one meeting where the BPE made proposals to the government, but stressed that the agency was not accorded further invitations.
“The way forward is perhaps to unbundle the various plant lines in Ajaokuta, which can all stand independently on their own as against going for a single core investor again,” he stated.
Akpotaire also said records indicated that NIOMCO and Delta Steel did not find their feet after the first privatisation in 2004 because the GIHL “clearly lacked the capacity” to deliver.
Workers of the steel firms and members of the host communities opposed the latest agreement on account of unresolved issues; one of which was the non-payment of outstanding benefits.
Others were calls for the payment of compensation for lives lost in the host communities during the various protests staged by their youths to oppose the privatisation policy.
The committee said it would have to report its findings to the general House.
British Petrol Stations Run Dry as Truck Driver Shortage Disrupts Supply Chain
Gas station pumps ran dry in major British cities on Monday and vendors rationed sales as a shortage of truckers strained supply chains to breaking point in the world’s fifth-largest economy.
A dire post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers revealed as the COVID-19 pandemic eases has sown chaos through British supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run up to Christmas.
Drivers queued for hours to fill their cars at gas stations that were still serving fuel, albeit often rationed, and there were calls for National Health Service (NHS) workers to be given priority, to keep hospitals open as the pandemic continues.
“As pumps run dry there is a real risk that NHS staff won’t be able to do their jobs, and provide vital services and care to people who urgently need it,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s council chair.
Pumps across British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was unavailable on Monday, Reuters reporters said, with some limiting the amount of fuel each customer could buy.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers which now account for 65% of all UK forecourts, said members had reported that 50% to 90% of pumps were dry in some areas.
“We need some calm,” Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, who worked for BP (BP.L) for 30 years, told Reuters. “Please don’t panic buy: if people drain the network then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) said it had seen higher than usual demand for fuel across its British network and that some sites were running low on some grades of fuel.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said there was no shortage of fuel, urged people to stop panic buying and said there were no plans to get the army to drive trucks, though the Ministry of Defence would help with trucker testing.
Hauliers, gas stations and retailers warned that there were no quick fixes, however, as the shortfall of truck drivers – estimated to be around 100,000 – was so acute, and because transporting fuel demands additional training and licensing.
For months, supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers was straining supply chains to breaking point – making it harder to get goods onto shelves.
Amid warnings of a dire winter ahead, some politicians in the European Union linked the supply chain stress to the 2016 Brexit referendum and Britain’s subsequent decision to seek a distant relationship with the bloc.
“The free movement of labour is part of the European Union, and we tried very hard to convince the British not to leave the Union,” said Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor.
“They decided differently. I hope they will manage the problems coming from that,” Scholz said.
British ministers have insisted that Brexit is nothing to do with the current trucker shortage, though around 25,000 truckers returned to Europe before Brexit. Britain was also unable to test 40,000 drivers during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Edwin Atema, the head of research and enforcement at the Netherlands-based FNV union, told the BBC that EU drivers were unlikely to flock to Britain given the conditions on offer.
“The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help UK out of the shit they created themselves,” Atema said.
Africa Needs $2 Trillion for Green Manufacturing, McKinsey Says
Africa’s lack of industrial development puts it in a strong position to develop low-carbon manufacturing without the costs of transitioning from fossil fuel-based factories, McKinsey & Co. said.
In the process of striving toward net-zero emissions by 2050, the continent could create a net 3.8 million jobs, McKinsey said in its Africa’s Green Manufacturing Crossroads report, which was partially funded by the U.K. government and released Monday. However, to hit that level would require investment of $2 trillion in manufacturing and power.
“Africa has an opportunity to leapfrog high emitting manufacturing technologies and build a low-carbon manufacturing sector from the ground up,” Kartik Jayaram, a senior partner in McKinsey’s Nairobi office, said in a statement accompanying the report. “Africa could avoid future costs by sidestepping the expensive transition from fossil fuels to renewables.”
Still, without any commitments to decarbonize emissions from manufacturing, Africa could almost double to 830 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050, McKinsey said.
“To change this trajectory, decisive action would be needed,” McKinsey said.
Of the 440 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent currently produced by African manufacturing, almost a third comes from cement and 13% is emitted by coal-to-fuel plants, which are operated by Sasol Ltd. in South Africa, the consultancy said.
To fund the development, African countries would need to tap green finance instruments such as carbon credits, green bonds, green insurance and payment for performance linked to green outcomes, Mckinsey said. To decarbonize existing industries, $600 billion would be needed while $1.4 trillion is needed for new green businesses, the consultancy said.
Carbon capture and storage and the production of green hydrogen are two technologies that could help the continent attain the target, it said.
New industries that could be developed range from bioethanol and cross-laminated timber to electric vehicles and green hydrogen, McKinsey said.
UNGA 2021: The World has the Resources to End Hunger, African Development Bank Head tells UN Food Systems Summit
“The world has the resources to end hunger,” African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina said in a message on the first day of the United Nations Food Systems Summit.
Convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres, the event is billed by its organisers as “a historic opportunity to empower all people to leverage the power of food systems to drive our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get us back on track to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.”
The summit brings together thousands of youths, food producers, members of civil society, researchers, the private sector, women and indigenous people, all of whom are participating both physically and virtually in the summit. It is taking place on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York.
In his opening address, Guterres said the participants represented “energy, ideas and the willingness to create new partnerships,” and was a time to celebrate the dignity of those who produce and create the world’s food.
Decrying the 246 million people in Africa who go to bed daily without food and the continent’s 59 million stunted children as “morally and socially unacceptable,” Adesina said that delivering food security for Africa at greater scale called for prioritising technologies, climate and financing.
“The $33 billion per year required to free the world of hunger, is just 0.12% of $27 trillion that the world has deployed as stimulus to address the Covid-19 pandemic. I am confident that zero hunger can be achieved in Africa by 2030,“ Adesina said.
The African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy, through its Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program – widely known as TAAT – has provided 11 million farmers across 29 African countries with proven agricultural technologies for food security. Food production has expanded by 12 million metric tons while saving $814 million worth of food imports.
“We are well on our way to achieving our target of reaching 40 million farmers with modern and climate-resilient technologies in the next five years,” the African Development Bank chief added.
At a meeting on food security in Africa organized by the Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) earlier this year, 19 African heads of state called for the establishment of a facility for financing food security and nutrition in Africa.
“The Facility for Financing Food Security and Nutrition in Africa should be capitalized with at least $ 1 billion per year,” Adesina said.
The welfare of the 70% of Africa’s population working in agriculture and agribusiness is a barometer of the state of the continent’s health. “If they aren’t doing well, then Africa isn’t doing well,” Rwandan president Paul Kagame said in a message at the official opening.
The many other heads of state and government who spoke on Thursday included, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand.
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