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Ajaokuta Steel mystery, misery lingers as Buhari declines assent to company completion bill

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•Seven other Bill rejected

Jude Johnson with Agency report 

President  Muhammadu Buhari has communicated his non-assent to Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, 2018 thereby extending the mystery why such critical infrastructure for national security and development has remained uncompleted for over three decades. 

Ajaokuta Steel company was to have been completed since the 1980s but have become a subjected of controversies with each administration failing to get the job done despite billions of naira being spent.

The President also declined assents to seven other bills forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February.

The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki made the announcement at plenary on Tuesday.

He said several reasons, including infractions and duplication of responsibilities of existing agencies and financial constraints, were cited in separate letters for the non-assent.

Buhari in the Ajaokuta Completion Fund Bill letter, dated March 19, 2018, said appropriating 1 billion dollar from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as requested for in the bill is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.

“The nation cannot afford to commit such an amount in the midst of competing priorities with long term social and economic impact that the funds can be alternatively deployed.

“Bills seeking to make appropriation of revenues to fund public expenditure should be consolidated in the annual Appropriation Act.

“Such that these proposals pass through the traditional scrutiny that budget proposals are subjected to by the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.

“Furthermore, as the Excess Crude Account Funds belong to the Federation, it would be proper to consult with the National Economic Council where the states are represented,” he said.

He added:”Relevant stakeholders such as the Ministries of Mines and Steel Development, Industry, Trade and Investment were not fully consulted.

“The inputs of key stakeholders are necessary to create the optimal legal and regulatory framework as well as institutional mechanism to adequately regulate the steel sector.”

In another letter dated March 27 and denying assent to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill, 2018, the President cited Section 32 of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency Bill 2018 as one of the reasons for refusing assent.

“Section 32 of the bill, introduces a two and half per cent levy on the profit before tax of the target companies which will increase the tax burdens of the companies while offering no direct benefit to them.

“A one per cent levy on  imports, which will also add to the cost of doing business in the country.

“A five per cent levy on luxury goods, which duplicates efforts by the Federal Ministry of Finance to raise excise on such goods in a more sustainable manner to the benefit of the Federal Government treasury,” he said.

The letter added that if signed into law, the agency would have similar objectives to the Bank of Industry(BOI) particularly with regard to the funding of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Other bills Buhari declined assents to are the Nigerian Aeronautical Search and Rescue Bill 2018, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2018 and  Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Bill 2018.

Others are the National Housing Fund Bill 2018, National Institute of Credit Administration Bill 2018 and National Bio- Technology Development Agency Bill 2018.

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