By Salisu Na’inna Dambata
One of the important outcomes of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Russia where he attended the Russia-Africa submit was the discussion that led to a pledge by the Russian authorities to return to the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, complete all its outstanding sections and bring the industrial behemoth into production for the economic development of Nigeria and the wellbeing of the citizens.
A significant aspect of the discussion on the return of the Russians to Ajaokuta steel works is that the completion and activation of all its uncompleted parts into functional arms will be based on government to government model of transactions, including procurements and financing. The sum advantage of this is that everything about it will be cost-effective, in other words, without padding the bill for margins or commission by imagined and real middlemen.
The Ajaokuta Steel Complex, which was designed to process and convert some of the iron ore deposit in nearby Itakpe, Kogi State, into steel, has reached over 90 per cent completion by 1994 when Nigeria lost the political will to complete and bring it to fruition.
Sitting on a 24, 000 hectres of land and equipped with blast furnace technology for steel making, the journey to the development of the complex started when the Federal Government established the Nigerian Steel Development Authority (NSDA) in 1971 in order to advance the progress of the Nigerian Steel Industry.
Information on the website of the complex said: “Ajaokuta integrated steel complex was conceived and steadily developed with the vision of erecting a Metallurgical Process Plant cum Engineering Complex for generating upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the diversification of our economy into an industrial one.
Those upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities will be intensified in the various facilities of the Complex including the iron rod rolling mill for the construction industry, foundries for forging spare parts for industries and the machine tools to manufacture mechanical parts and perform machining and repair various sizes of work up to 9,000 metric tons per annum.
With 94 per cent of its equipment supplied and installed, the Ajaokuta Steel Company was able to meet the demand for its services by three of the four NNPC refineries in the country, all the Cement companies in Nigeria except one; the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria, Cadbury Nigeria Limited and Nigeria Printing and Minting Company Ltd, to mention a few.
Going by the activities in the facilities of the complex, it is gradually achieving its role “as a strategic industry, a job creator and a foreign exchange saver and earner. It was envisaged that the Company would generate a myriad of socio-economic benefits and increase the productive capacity of the nation through its linkages to other industrial sectors.”
The website says of the Steel giant: “It would provide materials for infrastructural development, technology acquisition, human capacity building, income distribution, regional development and employment generation. While the project would directly employ about 10,000 staff at the first phase of commissioning, the upstream and downstream industries that will evolve all over the nation will engage not less than 500,000 employees.”
The 10,000 employees would be spread and engaged at the 2, 610, 000 tons capacity Sinter Plant; Coke-Oven byproducts plant to produce 880,000 tons of Coke, 48,000 tons of Tar, 12,000 tons of ammonium sulphate, 210,240,000cm of Coke Oven gas and 350,000 tons of Steam per annum.
Some of the workers will be operating the Blast Furnace which has an installed capacity to produce 1.350 million tons of liquid metal; 155,000 tons of pig casting machine and 685,000 tons of blast furnace slag per annum. The steel making shop has a liquid steel production capacity per annum of 1,350,000 tonnes, and a continuous casting machine with a capacity for 1,813,000 tonnes per annum, which will equally be manned by the workers.
Other benefits of putting the Ajaokuta Steel Company on a sound and sustainable productive trajectory include feeding the gradually expanding railways with spare parts from its foundries; supplying materials required to produce a Nigerian car to the Zaria-based Nigerian Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) and in supporting the entrenchment and deepening of local content in the lucrative Oil and gas industry. .
The mining and agricultural sectors, two of the three pillars propping up the diversification of the economy in the era of President Muhammadu Buhari, will most likely benefit from the completion of Ajaokuta as mining and equipment and agricultural mechanisation tools can be more cheaply forged with iron products from the Company.
Manufacturers of products that need moulds to design and manufacture their wares in the plastic and packaging subsector and can source the moulds from Ajaokuta, which has hundreds of patterns and shapes out of which many can almost certainly meet their needs.
The Ajaokuta Steel Company has a thermal power generation plant that can produce 110 megawatts of electricity for its operations, supplying the homes of its staff and, of course, some of the settlements around its territorial limit as part of its corporate social responsibility outreach.
So far reports in the media indicate that the news about completing Ajaokuta Steel Company has excited millions of Nigerians including the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahya Bello, who through his Chief Press Secretary, noted that such good news had revived the hope of Kogi State as it would go a long way to boost the state’s economy and solve to very large extent issues of unemployment as well as limiting the state’s reliance on Federal Government’s allocation.
“The effort of President Muhammadu Buhari in reviving the lost glory of the steel company is an attestation to the fact that he was a promise keeper who sought the good interest and development of the confluence state,” he said