It was the dream of Nigeria to have reliable steel industry that will not only form the bedrock of the country’s industrialisation, but also place her in a competitive position with her counterparts worldwide that led the federal government to come up with the idea to restructure its priorities. This culminated into the establishment of some steel projects in Nigeria, including Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd (ASCL), Delta Steel Company Ltd, Aladja, Jos Steel Rolling Mills, Inland Rolling Mills in Osogbo, Katsina Rolling Mills and the Nigeria Machine Tools Ltd, also in Oshogbo.
Sadly, most of these steel projects are today liquidated and under lock and key. The Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd, the largest steel industry in Africa and third in the world, remains moribund and is yet to see the light of the day because its final completion has become a political issue with successive governments.
Part of several failed efforts by past administrations to fix this integrated steel plant and give a boost to the country’s industrialisation drive gave birth to the idea to concessionaire the steel project, thus leading to the signing of dual concession agreements at various times between the federal government, Solgas Energy Ltd and Global infrastructure Holdings Ltd under Olusegun Obansajo’s administration.
Expectedly, this untidy move further held down the process of actualising the interest of Nigeria to be the steel giant of Africa, until the coming of the administration of President Umar Yar’Adua who set up a machinery to review the concession agreement and get the project back on track.
Today, it is interesting to learn that all legal issues that trailed the review of the concession agreement have finally been resolved by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is also heartwarming to note the efforts of the Buhari administration towards the completion of the Itakpe–Warri– Ajaokuta rail project for the movement of goods and people.
There is no doubting the fact that it is for the above reasons and the belief that the steel project will get a headway under President Buhari’s government that Nigerians, the people of Kogi State in particular, voted massively in support of President Buhari’s second term in office
However, of serious concern is the recent notion in some quarters that the present administration has listed Ajaokuta steel company as one of the state-owned outfits to be disposed of.
Some critics of the Buhari administration even claimed that the completion of the steel project was far from Buhari’s mind, adding that it accounted for the president’s casual comments about the project when he came on campaign visit to Kogi State before the last general elections.
Despite this disturbing notion, however, both chambers of the National Assembly recently passed a resolution for the government to remove ASCL/NIOMCO Itakpe from the list of outfits billed for privatisation and recommended that government should put $1 billion for the completion of the steel plant.
No doubt, the Senate and the House of Representatives must have thoroughly considered the options of privatising the steel plant or completing it, in order to make it not only fully operational, but also contribute towards attaining the goals of making Nigeria the steel giant of Africa.
The above action of both chambers of the National Assembly summarises the wish of Nigerians on the issue of Ajaokuta steel project. Therefore, Nigerians await the president to assent to the resolution of the National Assembly by releasing the appropriated funds for the completion of the steel plant.
Even though it has been argued in some quarters that the problem militating against the completion of the steel plant borders on international politics, the deficiency in the capacity of the leadership of the country and the inefficiency in the civil service/management of the facility itself, but to a large extent, situations determine the operations or direction of a government. Nigeria must not allow foreigners to detract us from taking this step that we clearly know is pivotal to our present and future economic well-being.f
It is my hope and, I believe, the hope of most Nigerians that, with the second coming of President Buhari for another four years, the country will truly move to the next level of industrial growth and development.
As reasonable followers too, what our leaders expect is our support by way of good suggestions/advice. Both the leader and followers must resist the temptation of trivialising and politicising issues.
It is therefore my candid opinion that the President should use the opportunity of his second coming to lay the foundation for the industrial growth of the country, by ensuring that Ajaokuta Steel Project is fully completed and made operational.
First, President Buhari should jettison the idea of privatising ASCL/NIOMCO Itakpe by aligning himself with the recent resolution of the National Assembly on the need to complete Ajaokuta steel project in line with the wishes of generality of Nigerians.
Apart from the fact that the completion of Ajaokua steel project will lead to the industrialisation of the country and by extension enable the country to attain economic, viability, the project when completed will generate mass employment for the citizens, and reduce joblessness and crime in our society.
To demonstrate commitment, the president should pay a working visit to the steel plant with a view to having a personal assessment of the gigantic project. He should come out with a reform in the supervising ministry in order to ensure that the best hands are given the opportunity to manage the steel company.
Finally, the choice of the new sole administrator of ASCL, Engr. Ismail Akaaba, is praiseworthy. Since his appointment, he has ensured that the power plant functions. It is our conviction that with every necessary support, the new management can move the steel plant to the next level in line with President Buhari’s second term mantra.
– Adoke, an activist and public affairs analyst, wrote in from Adavi LGA, Kogi State.