Ajaokuta Steel Project Revival: Coalition of CSOs hold National Conference


By Isah Hussein

A one-day National Conference on the Revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and President Muhammadu Buhari Industrialization Agenda has held on Thursday November 25, at the Nigerian Army Resource Center, Asokoro Abuja.

The event which was organized by NGO Network in collaboration with Institute for Governance and Leadership Studies in Africa and CSO Coalition for the Revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company has as its theme: “Ajaokuta Steel Project and President Muhammadu Buhari’s Industrialization Agenda”

The objectives of the Conference according to the Chairman, Organising Committee, Engr Muhammed Lawal , while giving the opening remarks, is to recognise and appreciate the Ajaokuta Steel Project as a legacy project of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration and identify existing gaps in the completion of the Project, recommend appropriate remedial actions, encourage both local and international non-state support for speedy completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Project and also to facilitate synergy among various MDAs involved in the Project as well as galvanize media support and understanding of current efforts on the Project while also ensuring sustainable media visibility of these efforts.

He said the Ajaokuta Steel Mill which is the largest in Nigeria, established in 1979 by the Soviet Union and had reached 98 percent completion by 1994, is regarded as the bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialization, having the capacity of generating sixty thousand employment.

He remarked that it was however regrettable that 27 years later, the country has largely failed to key into the potential economic benefits and technological advancements that accompany the development of iron and steel.

He said “our greatest assurance is the characteristic commitment of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to revive abandoned projects that gives us the comfort that the Ajaokuta Steel Project will be completed and commissioned before May 2023”

“This conference is to assure the government of Muhammadu Buhari that the Civil Society in general appreciate his leadership and the strategic style in which he has miraculously rescued the Steel Project and other abandoned projects”

” it has become a culture in the past six years for this administration to revive projects that have long been neglected and we hope that the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and The National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), Itakpe which we have been advocating for in the past few years and which have come to the fore in the past few months will also be completed”.

The Keynote Address was given by the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekun Adegbite, represented by Dr Kolawole Olasupo who delivered a paper on the subject; “Ajaokuta Steel Project Revival as a Legacy Project of President Muhammadu Buhari”

He said the conference is important and very strategic in the context of collective will of Nigerians to build a strong foundation for our industrial take off.

One of the major consideration for convening the conference according to the Honorable Minister, is the personal commitment of the President in ensuring that the Ajaokuta Steel Project takes off, as part of wider policy goals of the government to ensure that we have a strong economy hence, the key role of the industrial sector and, that the Ajaokuta Steel Project take off is a major component of that policy because we can not have a strong industrial sector if we do not have a strong steel sector .

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who was represented by Engr, Dr Muhammed Jibril gave a special address on the topic “Science, Technology and Innovation in Nigeria – The Missing Link and the Role of Presidential Executive Order 5”.

The Minister recalled that in the early 1970s, agriculture was mainstay of the Nigerian economy, accounting for over 42 percent of commodity export earnings and over 74 percent of total government earnings, through export produce and service taxes.

He said that in addition to the wealth of agricultural resources, are enormous mineral resource deposits which includes iron ore but that the Nigerian government did not develop this sector primarily because of diversion of interest of the government and the entire populace of the country to the oil sector as a major income and foreign exchange earner in the mid 1970s, shifting our attention from other profitable sector which led to the non exploitation of the economic potentials available in other non oil sectors.

He added that presently, the policy thrust of repositioning Nigeria’s economic situation from oil to non-oil sector by the administration of President Buhari is the reason behind the conference, in order to see how Ajaokuta Steel Project will assist in the nation’s economic growth and development, generation of employment and in reduction of poverty as well as creation of wealth.

He underscored the crucial role of science, technologiy and innovation in the Ajaokuta Steel Plant revival attempts, saying that the involvement of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and other relevant MDAs is expected to bridge the seeming gap and provide synergy among the various stakeholders in the Ajaokuta Steel Project rejuvenation efforts.

Other speakers at the conference include Prof. JK Obatala, (National Space Research and Development Agency, Abuja), Prof. Benjamin Adewuyi(Federal University of Technology, Akure), Former National President, Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria( ASCSN), Muhammed Otori, Amb. John Onoja, Dr. Mrs. Juliet Okibayi Muneme (Varitas University, Abuja), Mr. Arimie Biebele, University of Port Harcourt and a host of others.

Participants at the conference were drawn from various sectors of the country including the government, organized private and the not-for-profit sectors. These include the Presidency and relevant officials from Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Management Staff of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and National Iron Ore Mining Company of Nigeria.

Others are representatives of Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF) and the Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Company, coalition of civil society organizations from across the country, media chief executives, relevant unions, NGOs, non-state actors and community based organizations.

Participants observed that there has been a long delay in the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Company due to lack of Political Will until President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015.

The delay in the revival of the steel industry spanning over 30 years has caused untold hardship to workers, retirees, youths and women across borders that have skills, and trained but not utilized, thereby increasing redundancy, capacity gaps and unemployment in large scale, crimes and drug abuse among teenagers.

Infrastructural development has been undermined along the mining and steel areas which include roads, electricity, water supplies and has set the nation steadily backwards over a long period of time.

They also observed that there has been a disconnect between the local people, state and federal government on the value addition of local community which informed the crises recorded in the past that resulted into destruction of properties and stolen of assets at the feeder Agency.

Finally, they observed that the biggest challenge hindering the quick revival and administration of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited is funding, even as the 2022 Budget Proposal undermines the efforts towards making Nigeria an industrialized nation.

After an extensive discussion, the following recommendations were made by participants as key issues to take forward to the National Conference.

a) Participants commended President Muhammed Buhari’s commitment to the revival of the steel industry as exhibited in his visit to Russia, setting up the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT) and a recommendation to negotiate with the foreign partners on the legal tussles caused by the termination of the contract, but appealed that he should go a step forward by ensuring that adequate and regular order to the supervising Ministry to ensure the foreign partners commences the Audit of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO).

b)The government should as a matter of urgency and necessity, consider the inclusion of a representative of civil society organization in the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT) to promote inclusiveness and ownership by the people.

c) To reduce unemployment among our youths and the citizenry, the government should as a matter of urgency, ensure the commencement of audit of Ajaokta Steel Company and feeder company, National Iron Ore Mining Company.

d) Initiate the recall of retired staff that have the skill, technical know-how and experience to help in training, which will help to reduce the cost of foreign experts to train workers.

e) A Call on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on the federal roads connecting Lokoja, Ajaokuta, Itakpe, Okene and environs for enhanced social economic activities while noting that the revival of the steel plant will assist greatly in revamping the power generation to the companies and adjourning states and FCT.

f) A Host Community Relations Initiative that will identify certain statutory benefits to the people of the areas as compensation should be put in place by the Federal Government with adequate funding and monitoring.

g) Participants recommended and support the ongoing proposal to the National Assembly for the establishment of a Steel University in Nigeria, which should be in Kogi State specifically for the purpose of training of youths and by extension reduce capital flight among trained experts currently working in other countries where their steel industries are working.

h) That the current statutory allocation of meager One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (₦150,000,000.00) as yearly overheads should be increased in three folds or more, above under mining and steel companies, to enable it function effectively, while it is strongly advised that government should collaborate with the organized private and non-profit sectors of Nigeria to seek alternative funding sources for the mines and steel industries including fundraising.


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