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FG Spends $10bn on Ajaokuta Steel Company

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Ajaokuta Steel

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.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Economy

Federal Government Halts Cooking Gas Export to Lower Local Prices

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cooking gas cylinder

In a bid to stabilize domestic prices and meet rising demand for cooking gas within Nigeria, the Federal Government has announced a temporary halt on the exportation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), commonly known as cooking gas.

This decision follows a significant surge in the cost of cooking gas, which has placed a strain on consumers across the country.

According to reports, the halt in LPG export aims to increase the availability of the commodity within Nigeria’s borders, thereby reducing its local price.

The move is part of broader efforts to address the challenges faced by consumers grappling with the high cost of living.

In recent years, the demand for cooking gas has steadily increased in Nigeria, driven by urbanization, population growth, and a shift towards cleaner energy sources.

However, despite being a major producer of LPG, Nigeria has struggled to meet its domestic demand due to insufficient local production and distribution infrastructure.

Data from the Nigerian Midstream Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority reveals that while the total consumption of cooking gas in Nigeria has been on the rise, the country has relied heavily on imports to bridge the supply gap.

The recent decision by the government underscores its commitment to prioritizing the domestic market and ensuring that Nigerians have access to affordable cooking gas.

Consumers have been grappling with escalating prices, with reports indicating a significant increase in the cost of refilling a 12.5kg cylinder of cooking gas in major cities like Abuja, Lagos, and Kano.

The decision to halt LPG exports signals a proactive measure by the government to mitigate the adverse effects of rising prices and alleviate the financial burden on households across the nation.

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Manufacturing Sector Records 7.70% Quarter-on-Quarter Growth in Q4 2023

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German manufacturing

In the fourth quarter of 2023, Nigeria’s manufacturing sector grew by 7.70% year-on-year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The surge in growth reflects a significant uptick from the preceding quarter and underscores the resilience of the manufacturing industry amid economic challenges.

This growth trajectory indicates positive momentum and signals potential opportunities for economic recovery and development.

The manufacturing sector, comprising thirteen key activities ranging from oil refining to motor vehicles and assembly, demonstrated notable dynamism across various subsectors.

This growth surge is attributed to increased production, enhanced operational efficiencies, and strategic investments across the manufacturing value chain.

Despite facing headwinds such as supply chain disruptions and regulatory uncertainties, the sector’s robust performance underscores its pivotal role in driving economic diversification, job creation, and industrialization efforts in Nigeria.

Moving forward, sustaining this growth momentum will require continued policy support, investment in infrastructure, and efforts to address key bottlenecks hindering the sector’s expansion.

By fostering an enabling business environment and promoting innovation and technology adoption, Nigeria’s manufacturing sector can further catalyze inclusive economic growth and contribute significantly to the nation’s development agenda.

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Economy

Nigeria’s GDP Grows by 3.46% in Q4 2023, Driven by Services

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Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 3.46% in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2023 on the back of robust performance of the services sector, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The GDP expansion though slightly lower than the 3.52% recorded in the same period of 2022, reflects a positive trajectory for the Nigerian economy amid ongoing challenges.

The growth rate surpassed the 2.54% recorded in the preceding quarter, indicating a rebound in economic activity.

The services sector emerged as the key driver of growth expanding by 3.98% and contributing 56.55% to the overall GDP.

This sector’s resilience underscores its pivotal role in Nigeria’s economic landscape, encompassing diverse industries such as telecommunications, finance, and real estate.

Also, the agriculture sector experienced growth, expanding by 2.10% compared to the same period in 2022.

Meanwhile, the industry sector recorded a notable improvement, growing by 3.86%, a stark contrast to the -0.94% contraction observed in the fourth quarter of 2022.

On an annual basis, Nigeria’s GDP expanded by 2.74% in 2023 compared to 3.10% in the previous year, reflecting sustained but moderated growth.

The positive trajectory in GDP growth reflects resilience in the face of various economic challenges.

However, sustaining and accelerating growth will require continued efforts to address structural bottlenecks, foster investment, and promote inclusive economic policies across sectors.

Nigeria’s Oil Sector Growth

During the fourth quarter of 2023, Nigeria’s oil sector posted a real growth rate of 12.11% year-on-year, signifying a significant improvement from previous periods.

This was driven by the surge in average daily oil production to 1.55 million barrels per day (mbpd), a positive shift in the sector’s performance.

Despite challenges such as global market fluctuations and production constraints, the oil sector contributed 4.70% to the nation’s total real GDP in Q4 2023.

Nigeria’s Non-Oil Sector

Nigeria’s non-oil sector sustained growth momentum, posting a 3.07% real growth rate in Q4 2023.

This growth was primarily attributed to key industries including finance, telecommunications, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction.

Accounting for 95.30% of the nation’s GDP in the same quarter, the non-oil sector continues to drive economic diversification efforts and reduce dependence on oil revenues.

Despite facing challenges, such as infrastructure deficits and regulatory bottlenecks, the sector’s resilience underscores its pivotal role in fostering sustainable economic development and inclusive growth agendas.

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