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The establishment of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) was conceived to be the driving force of the nation’s quest for technological advancement.
The construction of Ajaokuta Steel Company commenced under the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979 and was commissioned in 1983, when the project had achieved about 95 percent completion rate. As at 1983 when it was commissioned, the following rolling mills of the steel plant were in operation: Light, Billets, Wire rod, medium section and structural mills. It was planned then that profits generated would provide the needed funds for the completion of the remaining five percent of the blast furnace.
Alas, after President Shehu Shagari’s removal from office in 1983, the steel plant was abandoned, while most of its engineers trained in Russia to work in the plant, left to join other companies, others were retired. The four mills in Ajaokuta Steel Company between 1985- 1987 started optimal production, regrettably, international politics played a devastating blow to the dream of steel development in the country which led to short-down of the Steel Complex.
Since then, successive governments, without political will and technological ideology have made effort in resuscitating the ailing industry but to no avail. The administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, in a view to revitalise the moribund industry concession it, despite criticisms from steel workers and labour leaders, to Global System Steel Holdings Limited (GSHL) in 2005 with yet, another disastrous outcome.
Under the concession agreement, knowing full well that the future of the Steel Company is not effulgent, President Umaru Yar’adua terminated the agreement in 2008 and set up an Interim Management Committee to oversee it because the concession company GIHL was trading in iron ore and making billions of naira without showing commitments to revitalizing the company. Through the Ministry of Mines and Steel, the federal government said the steel plant would not be closed down after the speculation that the equipment are obsolete.
In one of the company’s press briefing in 2012, Engr. Isah, debunked the insinuations that the steel company’s plant was obsolete. He said the plant’s facilities and equipment are in good conditions generally, adding that passion and nationalism have been the propelling force behind the workers, who have guarded the equipment against vandals in disguise.
There was a technical audit report by the Ukrainians recently which states that the situation of the steel plant’s equipment and facility are satisfactory. “Technically, the Ajaokuta plant’s equipment and facilities are generally in good condition”.
According to the Ukrainian Engineers, the blast furnace model which Ajaokuta steel plant has is the best in the world.
“In 2010, the world statistical year book put the total crude steel rates produced globally at 1.4 billion tones, of which 74 percent of it was through blast furnace. This is the technology adopted in Ajaokuta steel plant, then how can a technology that produces such percentage of world steel be considered obsolete?” if vision 20-20-20 is to be realized President Muhammadu Buhari should disregard the report compiled by the Department of International Development (DFID) that said the economic value of Ajaokuta Steel Company was marginal and urged government to completely shut down the steel plant. Multiplier effects, social security and economic potentials of an enterprise are greater indices in measuring profitability.”
Experts have said that the steel plant, if completed, has the capacity of producing 1.3 million metric tonnes of liquid steel as well as net provider of employment.
“What is required in Ajaokuta is adequate funding and maintenance. There is a steel plant in Ukraine that is over 105 years old and still working perfectly with minimal maintenance,” President Buari should develop the will to reactivate the steel company. At optimal production level, the steel plant at Itakpe Iron Ore can generate over one million jobs for teeming youths if properly funded because many cortege industries that will make use of the by-products from the steel mill would be established. The federal government cannot create jobs through establishment and duplication of agencies which in many cases be scrapped due to policy’s inconsistency by successive governments.
The surest means of creating jobs in developing countries like ours is true technological initiative and advancement which will lead to industrial revolution. India is a typical example; the TATA Motor Company of India was established the same period Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited was established, today, TATA is the major supply of military trucks and other heavy articulated vehicles to Nigeria. It is ridiculous that in the 21st century, the giant of Africa is still importing slabs, roofing sheets, simple agricultural tools such as hoe and cutlass, glass ware etc from countries which became independent after Nigeria. High cost of materials for the construction of distillation units, pipelines for feedstock and products transfer are the major claim why we cannot establish functional refinery as a country, but this are materials that could be gotten from Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited with no cost of importation.
The neglect of Ajaokuta Steel Company is not just a neglect of Kogi state, but a grave neglect and marginalization of the middle-belt region of Nigeria and an attempt to endanger the future of the Nigerian youths in general. If a whooping thirty nine point four billion naira (N39.4b) can be approved for oil and gas exploration in the lake Chad basin by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as reported on the 12th of December, 2015 and at a time the present government is thinking of diversifying economy from oil to other sectors like solid mineral exploration and Agriculture due to fall in crude oil price, same amount with foreign loan and Public-Private-partnership initiative can reactivate the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited which can create millions of jobs for Nigerian youth
– Onogwu Isah Muhammed
Lokoja, Kogi State
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