By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
he chairman Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines and Metallurgy, Tanko Al Makura, has said the 2022 budget will frustrate the much desired development in Ajaokuta Steel plant and solid minerals development generally, over its failure to allocate special funds to the sector in the 2022 Budget.
Al Makura, an immediate past Governor of Nasarawa State, said this while fielding questions from journàlists shortly after submitting the budget defence report of his committee to the Senate Appropriation Committee.
He said “We found that the much desired growth in this sector may not be easily achievable without very special allocation to this ministry.”
Speaking further, he said during the budget defence of the Ministry and agencies under his Committee, they discovered repetition of most of the items provided in the 2021 Budget, regretting that it has become like a stereotyping of budget for Solid Minerals development.
To this end, the senator cautioned that if Nigeria truly desires economic development and diversification, especially in the solid minerals sector in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, there must be some initiative in ensuring that the budget is pragmatic.
“What we observed is that a lot of things that were provided for last year appeared to have come again this year. There appears to be some kind of stereotyping of the budget and if we really consider the need for economic growth and diversification which is very much sought for, there has to be some initiative in ensuring that the budget is a pragmatic budget.
“The President considers solid minerals among the sectors that will drive the process of diversification, but given the paltry allocation to the ministry, such desired expectations may not be easily met”, according to him.
He appealed to the committee to consider ways and means of finding a special funding to the Ministry of Solid Minerals, warning that otherwise, those things the Ministry is expected to achieve might not be realisable, especially looking at the concern and the passion Nigeria has for the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
He lamented that for the past two years when the initiative was put forward to reactivate the Ajaokuta Steel Company, there has not been any meaningful allocation to the company.
“With that, the much expected takeoff or reactivation of the company might not be made, except where there is a special fund. I would like to request the chairman to look passionately into this request.
“There is great hope for the solid mineral industry to grow. In the budget we presented today, the framework for effective growth is there, what is lacking is the funding, because there is so much talk about economic growth and diversification, which the solid mineral sector is supposed to drive among other sectors like agriculture, power.
“This may not be realised if certain special consideration is not made to this Ministry to drive the process. Not only the solid mineral, which has the capacity to create wealth across the country because given the natural endowment, every state has in this country. There is no state that does not have one kind of solid mineral or another.
“So, the government should take into consideration the widespread presence of these minerals across the States and the funding should be in tandem with this multiplicity of opportunities across the states”, he said.
Speaking earlier during the budget defence session with the Chairman of the Committee on Solid Minerals and Mines and Metallurgy, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the Senate, Barau Jubril, said a lot of money has been spent to revive Ajaokuta Steel Company, yet it has remained in a state of decay.
He said the company has not been utilised to its installation capacity, saying the situation calls for the involvement of everybody to make sure the company is resuscitated, given its importance to Nigeria.
Speaking also, a member of the Appropriations Committee, Smart Adeyemi, who is also from Kogi State, said solid minerals are very key to Nigeria’s socio-economic development.
“As a nation coping with a large number of unemployed people, this sector is very important. It is key, it will help the nation in terms of job creation and employment opportunities.”