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Ajaokuta Steel Company: Task before Presidential Committee

Designed with a three-phased commissioning sequence, its first phase targets 1.3million tonnes of steel per year, the second, 2.6 million, while the third is 5.2million respectively.

Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that by 1994, the steel plant had reached a technical level of 98 per cent completion.

“What this means is that installation by weight of equipment and steel structures as per original design had been erected before the Global Contract with TPE was determined in 1996,’’ Malam Ahmed Salihu, head of Corporate Affairs explained.

It was also learnt that the completed units – the  rolling mills and auxiliary plants of the company – have been in operation, on and off at various times, between 1984 and 2008.

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Task before Presidential Committee

Information from the Media Department of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development stated that the major task before the Presidential Committee is to do everything possible and necessary to revive and deliver Ajaokuta Steel Company.

The terms of reference given to the committee are to: Engage in ongoing bilateral negotiations as shall be necessary on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, leading to the execution of government-to- government agreement with the Russian Export Bank and Afrixembank; provide relevant technical and other inputs necessary to foster government-to-government negotiations; ensure, as much as possible, that all relevant raw materials are sourced locally, bearing in mind the local content provision and Presidential Executive Order 005; ensure the resuscitation of Ajaokuta steel plant based on original design; ensure timely commissioning of Ajaokuta steel plant within a reasonable period to be agreed upon by Council,’’ amongst others.

A source from the ministry, who did not want his name mentioned, said those who had so far shown interest to fund the Ajaokuta Steel Company were the Afrixembank and the Russian Export Bank. The source, however, said what the duo wanted to contribute would not complete the steel company.

“We believe that as we move on, more banks and institutions would show interest,’’ our source said.

Issues that need attention

Asked to identify issues that require attention in the steel company, our source said they would come up with the issues when the Technical Audit Committee submitted its report, adding that it would be difficult without the report. He said the COVID-19 pandemic had slowed down a lot of things.

On the current state of the company, our source said it is 98 per cent complete.

“In quote, Ajaokuta is 98 per cent complete, but we have to remember that there are a lot of infrastructure issues we need to sort out. There must be six months worth of feed stock before we can produce. There are 14 minerals that comprise a component of steel. All 14 minerals exist in Nigeria. At the same time, we have to mine those minerals,’’ he said.

The head of Corporate Affairs Department, Malam Ahmed, said the technical audits of the plant were conducted at various times in 2000 and 2010. The last one was done in 2018. He added that after the audit, the plant was adjudged to be technically sound and operatable.

Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, stakeholders in the host community commended President Muhammadu Buhari for demonstrating the political will towards the resuscitation of the steel company.

Comrade Otori Saliu Maliki, a former national president of the Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSSAN), said that by this gesture, President Buhari has shown that he is a man of his words and has the interest of the country at heart.

“You can see that he meant business by the caliber of people who are on the team. Most of them, including the SGF, had links to the company in the past and understand its challenges.

“Another decision, which is of strategic importance, is the terms of reference, which are based on the original plan and the desire to ensure a timely completion of the project, as well as the idea to also introduce local content. This is a demonstration of commitment to see that the project comes on stream; and it is quite laudable,’’ he noted.

He said that as a stakeholder who has been involved with the company and knows its potential as a promising bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialisation, he was elated by the ongoing effort to turn its fortune around.

He noted that the people of Ajaokuta, who donated over 24,000 hectares of their land for the project, would greatly benefit if it is fully operational.

“The company has the capacity to employ 10,000 staff at the first phase, while its upstream and downstream industries are supposed to engage as many as 500,000.

“You can imagine what this means to our teeming youths, in addition to the cumulative benefits drivable through its corporate social responsibility,’’ he observed.

Also, a former chairman of Ajaokuta Local Government, Nuhu Attai, said President Buhari’s gesture was a prayer answered after four decades of fervent solicitation to God for intervention.

He said communities within the local government area would witness economic, social and infrastructural transformation from the company, aside job benefits for their youth.

He thanked everyone who had contributed in one way or another to the process leading to the current stage, including the National Assembly and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.

Speaking in the same vein, a community leader, Alhaji Baba Ali, saluted the courage of the president for living up to his campaign promise of completing the project.

“We are happy because we have been longing for this day to come. We have patiently waited for it for four decades.

“We were elated when we received the news of the inauguration of the presidential team because when a project comes alive, a lot of economic activities will be triggered. Our youths will be gainfully employed and we will also witness massive infrastructural development,’’ he explained.

The immediate past national president of the Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN), Alhaji Sani Shehu, said the committee should work within its mandate.

“I think one of the mandates is to see that the Ajaokuta Steel Company works; and there are benefits. The bulk of the raw materials will come from Nigeria. So, Ajaokuta has the capacity to venture into the production of different forms of iron, including flat sheets used to assemble the body of vehicles.

When Ajaokuta becomes functional, it will create employment. And instead of importing iron and steel, Nigeria will be an exporter, especially to other African countries. Nigeria would have launched herself in a new technological breakthrough,’’ Shehu noted.

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