I couldn’t have believed my eyes. Was this a forest, I asked the guide. No this is Ajaokuta steel mill. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How I wished what I was told and what I saw was all lies. Sadly, it was reality.
For Nigerians, anytime mention is made of Ajaokuta, everyone’s mind immediately flashes back to the Steel Mill which should have been envy to the world but to which situations had made a shadow.
By historical standards, The Ajaokuta Steel Company was one of the foremost industrial projects conceived after the discovery of iron ore and coal deposits in commercial quantities in Nigeria in 1970. The Steel company with a capacity to produce 1.3 million tonnes of steel per year was designed and built as an integrated plant by the Russian Steel Company, TyazhpromExport, in 1976, after reaching an agreement with the Nigerian government.
In addition, the steel company had diverse potentials given its capacity to become a major producer of industrial machinery, auto-electrical spare-parts, shipbuilding, railways and carriages that will lead to job creation and reduce reliance on imported steel.
In the early days of 1983, the project had reached 95% completion and was commissioned by President Shehu Shagari at the time. The agreed plan was that the remaining 5% of the project will be financed using profits generated by the company. Over four decades back, Ajaokuta Steel Mill is a shadow of its former self as it is now a house to rodents and other reptiles.
Several governments have made efforts to resuscitate the steel company. These efforts haven’t yielded any tangible results. Several factors account for this. This includes but not limited to poor administration and management, incessant legal actions with the Global Steel Holdings Limited, an Indian firm involved in the failed concession of the Steel Company.
President buhari during the early days of his first term had settled a pending court case that enabled the FG to take control of the project and accelerate efforts to resuscitate the company.
Earlier this year, the legislative and executive arms of government and agreed to work together towards ensuring the revival of the infrastructure. The FG inaugurated the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team directed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha with the Minister of Mines & Steel Development as the alternate chairman.
The team was given the charge of working out modalities and develop plans to revive the company. This having received supports from the Russian Export Centre and African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM). All these were mere theory as there wasn’t any practical implementation.
According to Nairametrics, Ajaokuta Steel Company is massive, she has a 68km road network, 24 housing estates on the project. Some of the estates have over 1,000 homes, a seaport, a 110mw power generation plant, there are 43 separate plants in Ajaokuta alone. It is estimated that if Ajaokuta becomes operational, it will create 500,000 jobs.
Is it not sad that an investment worth over 10 billion dollars is rotting away while teeming Nigerian youths roam down the streets unemployed?
In production and manufacturing, steel is sine qua non as it’s importance cannot be relegated and underestimated. Why then should Nigeria continue to import steel when a massive infrastructure is lying docile and inactive?
Heretofore, it is important that the current administration should give the issue of reviving Ajaokuta steel mill maximal attention as Nigerians can no longer suffer while living in the midst of plenty. The time to act is now.