The Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Company, Mr Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, has urged the Federal Government to release funds for the completion of the remaining 10 per cent of the steel complex.
Abdul-Akaba told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ajaokuta that over 90 per cent of the facilities in the company had been completed, with many of the units that make up the entire plant already operational.
He said that if funds were appropriated and released for the completion of the remaining sections of the plant, its operations would be optimum.
“Most of the plants are ready; however, we are supposed to produce billets here from our raw materials but you can see that part of the plant that is responsible for that is not completed yet.
“Unfortunately, I do not believe in running this place section by section. Let us complete it and run it as a plant, not going to get half finished product from somewhere.
“However, it all depends on the direction government is looking at in terms of funding, but I can assure you that with political will from the government, this factory will be operational for the benefit of the nation,’’ he said.
Abdul-Akaba, therefore, called on the government to display political will to complete the company, saying it had huge economic benefits to the country.
He said that the completion of the complex would greatly help the nation in its quest for industrialisation and employment generation.
According to him, the benefits of the Plant cannot be over-emphasised, being an integrated steel plant with potential for in-built fertiliser and cement production from waste products.
“This project will recruit 10,000 technical staff from beginning; indirectly, we can also have 500,000 workers just at a go.
“Therefore, you cannot just over-emphasise what that will do in terms of employment and curbing the prevalence of criminality, robbery and kidnapping in this section of the country,’’ Abdul-Akaba said.
He explained that steel production and proper management were the bedrock of industrialization, adding that no nation could develop without the sector.
“As at last year, you will discover that we still imported steel and allied products worth over 10 billion dollars.
“So, you can just imagine what we are losing. The earlier we can stop this capital flight, the better for us as a country.’’
The administrator recalled that a South Korean plant that was built around the same time Ajaokuta was established had remained the bedrock of industrialisation of that country.
“Around the time the Russians were constructing Ajaokuta, a similar plant in South Korea was built. The plant today makes billions of dollars of revenue.
“Its revenue last year was over 60 billion dollars and they made a profit of over 11 billion dollars and that is a lot of money.
“So, there is need for the government and stakeholders to come together to see that we can complete this project.’’
Similarly, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry in Kogi, Mr Jacobs Tolorunleke, said that the steel plant needed little activation to fully come on stream.
Tolorunleke said that it was in that light that the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, had been doing everything possible to see that the Federal Government reactivate the project.
He said that it was in view of the numerous benefits of the steel company to the state and country that the state government organised the first Kogi Economic Summit to facilitate take-off of the company.
The commissioner said the summit was attended by investors within and outside Nigeria, and that the outcome was that the company should be completed.
“If you go to the site, you will see that there are a lot of structures; what the Federal Government needs to put the plant to production is a little activation.
“The governor has been fighting tooth and nail to make sure that the Federal Government completes the project,’’ he said.
On his part, Mr Kingsley Fanwo, Director-General, Media and Publicity, Kogi State, told NAN that the state government would leave no stone unturned to ensure completion of the steel company.
In the same vein, Mr Jabba Philip, Vice Chairman of Ajaokuta chapter of Nigeria Union of Mine Workers, said that the union was making effort to ensure that the Federal Government completed the project.
“As I speak with you, the chairman and secretary are in Abuja to meet with presidents of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to mount pressure on the Federal Government to complete the project.’’
Mr Nuhu Salahu, Chairman, Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Ajaokuta chapter, said completion of the steel plant had reached advanced level when it was abandoned by successive administrations “due to lack of political will’’.
“The company was constructed under former President Shehu Shagari to produce steel for Nigeria and Africa.
“But, unfortunately, due to changes in leadership, the successive administrations did not have the political will, in spite of the fact that construction of the company had reached advanced stage.
“It was abandoned for some political consideration.’’
The traditional rulers of Ajaokuta and Geregu, the two communities hosting the steel company, also blamed the delay in the completion of the plant on lack of political will by successive administrations after the one that established it.
The Onu of Ajaokuta, Alhaji Kassim Ibrahim and the Etsu of Geregu, Alhaji Haruna Aminu, urged the Federal Government to fulfil the promises it made to the communities when it took over their lands to establish the steel company.
They listed some of the promises as provision of basic amenities, compensation and employment of their youths.
Ajaokuta Steel Plant is sited on 24,000 hectares of land in Ajaokuta, about 38 kilometres from Lokoja, the Kogi capital.
The Plant was conceived and steadily developed with the vision of erecting a Metallurgical Process Plant and Engineering Complex with other auxiliaries and facilities.
The company is designed to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the diversification of Nigeria’s economy into an industrial one.
Dubbed “Bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialisation’’ the steel complex is also conceived for the production of iron and liquid steel from iron ore mines at Itakpe, also in Kogi, about 52 kilometres from Ajaokuta.