The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, has reacted to the decision by the House of Representatives to pass a vote of no confidence on him and his Minister of State, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, over their failure to appear at the sectoral debate on the state of the steel sector in the country.
A statement by his Special Assistant, Olayinka Oyebode, which was made available on Thursday, described the action of the lawmakers as “draconian.”
Mr. Oyebode said the absence of the two ministers which was tagged a boycott by the lawmakers was inappropriate as the reasons for their absence were formally communicated to the house,
“While the offices of the two ministers have been inundated with countless media enquiries regarding their absence shortly after the pronouncement, it is important to state unequivocally that the inability of the two ministers to attend the debate was duly communicated to the leadership of the House in two separate letters,” the statement read.
“One then wonders why the House members took such a draconian stance against the two Ministers who have very cordial relationships with the National Assembly.
“It is rather unfair for the House members to categorise the Ministers absence as “boycott”, when they were adequately notified.
“Tolerance and moderation are essential ingredients in public service engagement. In this particular case, they appear to be in short supply and the ministry believes that there is more than meets the eye on this matter.
“After all, the Ministers are always willing to engage the honourable House and its leadership at all times. It is on record that Minister Fayemi was the first Minister to address the sectoral debate in 2016 and the Ajaokuta Steel Complex was extensively addressed on that occasion.
“Subsequently, the House Committees on Privatisation and Public Petitions held special sessions on Ajaokuta and the Minister of State, Hon BawaBwari addressed the members on those two occasions.
“Given this past record, today’s action is most unwarranted and unfortunate.”
Following the motion moved by house leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, the lawmakers passed a vote confidence on the ministers and the Sole Administrator of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
The house held that the ministers were in contempt of the house by refusing to attend the event.
“The minister did not have the courtesy to reply but asked the permanent secretary to do so two weeks later,” said Mr. Gbajabiamila.
“The debate gives ample opportunity to clear the air against all accusations, there is more to it than meets the eyes. This is an assault on common sense for the two ministers to have done this.”
Meanwhile, in two separate letters made available, dated March 1, 2018, and addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Abdukadir Mu’azu, informed the house that the ministers would not be attending the debate as a result of other scheduled engagements.
He also pledged the ministry’s willingness to cooperate with the legislature in finding solutions to the problems of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
The permanent secretary however, in the second letter rebutted some allegations made by the house against the ministry, on the concessioning of the company.
“Furthermore, the ministry wish to take a strong exception to the content of your letter in paragraph 4, that insinuates that the proposed concessionaire have tied the hands of the ministry,” the letter partly read.
“With due respect, we regard this statement as unfair in view of the cordial relationship that exists between our two ministers and the Honourable Speaker and the leadership of the House of Representatives.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development’s hands have not been tied by any imagined proposed concessionaire.
“This ministry under the leadership of the two ministers, is totally committed to the completion and functioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant in view of the fact that steel is the most important engineering material and backbone of industrialisation in any economy.
“The Ministry after exploring all the options with the facts available to it believes there is no option to concessioning the Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
“It is in the light of the above that the ministry is committed to pursuing the concessioning process through the most open and transparent way to avoid the mistakes of the past.”