Resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel company is crucial to President Bola Tinubu’s agenda of job creation, diversification of the economy and attraction of foreign direct investment – Prince Audu
By Charles Ebube – Abuja
Nigeria’s Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Audu, on Wednesday, revealed the federal government’s three-year plan to revive the moribund Ajaokuta Steel complex.
Highlighting the plan broken down into small and medium-term, the minister said the resuscitation of the steel company was crucial to President Bola Tinubu’s agenda of job creation, diversification of the economy and attraction of foreign direct investment.
“If we are able to revitalise Ajaokuta, it will help us achieve this. This key point agenda will also help us eradicate poverty,” Mr Audu was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Communications, Abdullahi Haruna, on Wednesday.
The plan, according to the minister, involves designating the 24,000 hectares of land of Ajaokuta as an industrial park, to create a free trade zone that will further attract foreign direct investment.
Mr Haruna said the minister spoke during his maiden visit to the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited on Wednesday.
Ajaokuta Steel’s chequered history
The steel company, located in Kogi State, was built between 1979 and the mid-1990s, but it has become moribund.
Last September, the Nigerian government agreed to pay $496 million to settle an Indian firm’s claim over the facility. The dispute followed the federal government’s revocation in 2008 of an agreement that handed control of the steelworks and the National Iron Ore Mining Company to the Indian firm. In cancelling the deal, the Umar Yar’adua administration said the terms of the concession at the time were not favourable to the country.
In December last year, the government said 11 companies had indicated interest in taking over the steel company on a concession basis. Three of the 11 bidders are Russian companies, the then Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, said while listing his ministry’s achievements.
Upon assuming office in August, Mr Audu promised to revive the steel company.
He added that he would set a roadmap for the development of the steel sector, aggressively pursue the completion of Ajaokuta Steel company, and enact the required bills to regulate the sector.
According to the statement, the minister who was accompanied on the trip by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mary Ogbe, Staff of the ministry, and some foreign investors, said that the visit was aimed at giving him first-hand knowledge of the problems stopping production in the company in a bid to proffer solutions.
He explained that President Bola Tinubu was also interested in the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex by appointing him as the pioneer minister to show the world the importance of steel development to industrialisation.
“We want to thank the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for having the vision to create a Steel Development Ministry. Over the past 40 years, we had the largest steel plant in Nigeria and one of the largest in West Africa which has not functioned but the President knows that in order to industrialise Nigeria, we have to get the steel industry working.
“In line with the (eight) 8-point agenda of the ‘Renewed Hope mantra’ of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the key elements are job creation, diversification of the economy and attracting foreign direct investment. If we are able to revitalise Ajaokuta, it will help us achieve this. This key point agenda will also help us eradicate poverty,” Mr Audu said.
To achieve this, he said “We have put together two documents. A three-year plan for the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company which will have a small and medium-term term plan.
“Part of the things is the roadmap to designate the 24,000 hectares land of Ajaokuta an industrial park, to create a free trade zone that will further attract foreign direct investment.
“My job is to try and ensure that all those typical issues that have held the plant from producing will be resolved. And by the first term of this administration, if we are able to produce some sheet of steel, it will be a significant achievement.
“I have taken an extensive tour of the complex and plants, and there are lots of opportunities that if we are able to unlock, we will be able to create over 500,000 jobs which will benefit Kogites and more importantly, Nigerians.
“This will also guarantee that everyone benefits from the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,” he said.
The minister noted that he was on the tour with potential foreign investors and experts who have shown interest in bringing FDI to unlock these potentials.
He added that different investors given different components also worked in resuscitating moribund steel plants in other countries.
‘Many are interested’
Mr Audu said the investors would carry out an advanced technical audit of the steel complex and its facilities to see what more was to be done.
“I am being accompanied here today by investors who are ready to put their expertise to ensure that this steel company works. We have the Russians, Americans, Arabs and Chinese who are showing interest. They have come to show their desire to carry out an advanced technical audit to see what needs to be completed.
“After my findings from here, we will forward everything to Mr President for his approval,” Mr Audu said.
He said in addition to the three-year plan, the five-year plan would also seek to ensure the production of steel in other parts of the country.
He said that he is beginning his tour of office at the Ajaokuta Steel Company and the Itakpe Iron Ore Mining Company Limited, the two places which host the biggest investment and deposit of Steel production and Iron Ore in Nigeria and West Africa.
Mr Audu, however, called for the commitment of the staff of the company to their duties to ensure that they achieve the desired goal of the President and the hope of Nigerians in reviving the steel industry.
Also speaking, Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, sole administrator and chief executive officer thanked the President for reviving the hope of Nigerians by making Ajaokuta a priority again.
Mr Abdul-Akaba also commended Mr Audu for his great vision and plans to revive the company, noting that Ajaokuta is a land of vast opportunities.
“Unlike the thinking of so many people, Ajaokuta is not obsolete but only requires the right attention to get the multi-billion dollar running again.
“All we have to do as staff is to join hands with the visions of the President and also key into the plans of the Minister,” he said.