Over the years, so much had been said about resuscitating the moribund Ajaokuta Steel, but little has been done in terms of giving the place a human face. The steel is still in a state of disarray despite the fact that about $7 billion has been sunk into it since 1979 in a bid to get it up and running.
In fact, the comatose state of the steel has become a source of worry to well meaning Nigerians, especially the youths who are calling on the Muhammadu Buhari led-government to summon the political will and determination to get the plant back on its feet.
No doubt, Ajaokuta Steel has suffered serious neglect under successive administrations. It has not only been abandoned, but has also been depreciating in value. Experts have said that reviving the steel industry could be the solution to youth unemployment in the country.
Following the inability to fulfill any of his campaign promises in his first one year in office, Nigerian youths are not only dissappointed, but also anxious to know if the president still has the capacity to deliver on his promise on job creation.
Recently, the president reneged on some promises that he had earlier made to Nigerians. For instance, shortly after he was sworn-in, he promised to curtail his foreign trips in view of the near-empty treasury that he claimed he met on ground. Secondly, Nigerians recall vividly that Buhari had during his campaign promised to pay N5,000 as monthly stipend to the most vulnerable in the country. But after assuming office, he reneged on that promise by saying he would no longer pay the stipend to unemployed youths. He, however, argued that it is wise to use the funds to put up infrastructure and empower them through agriculture than to give out monies.
The question now is: can Buhari fulfill his promise on job creation by summoning the political will to revive the moribund Ajaokuta Steel?
Unfortunately, after President Shehu Shagari’s removal from office in 1983, the plant was abandoned, while most of its Russia trained engineers left to join other companies.
Perhaps, this embarrassing state of the plant was the reason why the seventh House of Representatives directed its Committees on Steel, Privatisation and Commercialisation and Justice to investigate the concession, following the controversy and non-performance of the industry from inception.
The House had expressed worry that the comatose nature of the industry had made the country to rely on the importation of iron and steel, thus spending about N1.3 trillion on capital flight in 2012 alone. The lower chamber also expressed concern that the employment potentials of the project had not been fully exploited, adding that it is capable of generating over 15,000 direct employment. It lamented that a similar company, Mittal Steel of India, conceived at about the same period with Ajaokuta is currently working at full capacity, while Ajaokuta has been marred by controversy.
Experts have reiterated that the plant is not obsolete, but is yet to have its operating control fixed. They, therefore urged the federal government to muster the political will to put the company to use, as it has the potential to generate 15,000 direct employment, even as 500,000 Nigerians could also be indirectly engaged. These experts added that in this era of insecurity and other social vices confronting the nation, making the company functional will address some of our current challenges. They explained that over 74 percent of global steel companies have adopted the blast furnace mode of steel production and noted that the insinuation that this technology has become obsolete is untrue and stressed that it is the best source of steel-making all over the world till date.
It is generally believed that what is required in reviving the plant is adequate funding and maintenance.The ideal thing to do is for Buhari’s government to carry out a detailed feasibility study to know what it will cost to get the place operational. Whether government likes it or not, the plant remains one of Nigeria’s heritage that must not be allowed to die by sheer neglect.
It is unimaginable that at this age and time, Nigeria is still importing slabs, roofing sheets, simple agricultural tools such as hoes, cutlasses, glassware etc from other developing countries, thus enriching them. This has to stop if the country must attain its target as an industrial giant.
Nevertheless, the eighth House of Representatives Committees on Steel, Privatisation and Commercialisation and Justice should beam its searchlight on the controversy surrounding the concession of the plant and come up with legislations were necessary.
Therefore, it is expected that the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, as part of his campaign promise on job creation, summons the political will and rare courage to reactivate the steel company which is capable of generating over two million jobs for youths if properly funded. This is one way that this government can create jobs for unemployed youths being used to perpetuate crimes.


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