It remains a great national embarrassment, that most of its iron and steel industries, some of which started skeletal operation more than 30 years ago have remained comatose. The Ajaokuta Steel Complex in Kogi state, the Aladja Steel in Delta, the Oshogbo Steel Rolling Company, the Katsina Rolling Mill, and several others were initiated by the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari in the 1980s with the aim of making this country self-reliant in steel production, as well as serving as a bedrock to diversify the nation’s economy which has been dependent on petroleum. Close to 40 years since the commencement of some of these laudable projects, most of them were abandoned mid-way as a result of gross ineptitude, corruption, and lack of political willto ensure their full operation. There is no gainsaying the fact that the economic wellbeing of this country would be enhanced if there is the willpower, in particular on the part of government to make Ajaokuta Steel, one of the largest of its kind in the world , and the other mills come to life. The Ajaokuta project in particular,if completed ,is said to have the capacity to engage more than two million Nigerians directly and indirectly. The need for Nigeria to make its iron and full industry takes centre stage in its economy, especially in the wake of the current recession cannot be overstressed. Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Libya, Venezuela, Indonesia and Mexicowhich are oil producing countries with great oil reserves like Nigeria have deemed it fit to also have developed viable steel industries.Nigeria, sadly, has continued to depend solely on crude oil and failed to diversify its economy , a necessity which has been paid lip service by the country’s subsequent administrations. The rest of the world has come to embrace steel industry as cornerstone to industrial and economic advancement. The modern world has come to terms with the reality that most of the advanced countries today attained the level they reached because of the value they attach to the development of their iron and steel industry. Japan, one of the most advanced nations of the world has no iron ore but itimports iron ore from Brazil, Peru and Australia, and today the Far East Asian nation is aleading steel-producing nation because it now produces steel on its own. Great Britain, France, Germany, all developed on iron and coal. There is no amount of investment a nation puts in its iron and steel industry that will be a waste .With Nigeria’s population standing at more than 170 million people, which is made mainly of jobless youths, one of the ways it can create job and wealth for its people is through the iron and steel industry. With good education and training, the country has a crop of talented and innovative people that will turn around the steel sector into a fortune . The federal government appears to be on the right track. In response to the yearning of concerned Nigerians, the federal government late last year took a major step in its plan to revitalise the steel sector as it signed a renegotiated concession agreement with Global Steel Holdings Limited for the Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Company ,NIOMCO, Itakpe. Dispute over the ownership of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex and NIOMCO,as result of the Obasanjo administration’s decision to contract out the management of the companies to various groups, had made it impossible for government to make any long‐term plans for the concession or privatisation of the two companies. By the new agreement, the Ajaokuta Steel Complex has now been returned to the federal government, effectively freeing the entity from all contractual hiccups that had left it uncompleted and non-functional for decades, while GSHL retains NIOMCO. The new agreement, which came after four years of mediation, was signed at a short ceremony presided by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in his office at the presidential villa .The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi, signed on behalf of the government, while the Chairman of GSHL, Prammod Mittal, signed on behalf of the company. Speaking at the event, Prof Osinbajo hailed the mediation process that led to the resolution of the problem that had made it impossible for the two national assets to be functional for years. According to the Vice President, “It is one of the cases of failures…It is a tragedy of immense proportion that we have both Ajaokuta Steel Complex and NIOMCO and couldn’t get anything out of them for years.” The GSHL Chairman, Mr Mittal, on his part said the company waited for eight years to achieve this amicable settlement. He said his organisation was committed to the objectives of the agreement and guaranteed supply to Ajaokuta plant and Delta Steel Company, after which it would sell what is left to other interested parties. He assured the government of its readiness to commence operation soon, adding that in the next two years Nigeria would begin to produce steel. The International Mediator, Mr Richardson, lauded the government and GSHL for opting for mediation as a means of settling the dispute.Negotiations for amicable resolution of the Ajaokuta crisis had dragged on since 2008, leaving the country’s steel and industrial sectors largely comatose. It is our hope that following this settlement, the steel sub sector is on the way to being revitalized and Nigeria’s industrial base solidified.Above all, the vital sector of the nation’s economy has suffered neglect and administrative inertia for too long. The federal government and other relevant agencies should get cracking in order to make the steel sector play the required role in the economic and social transformation of Nigeria, which is experiencing one of its most traumatic economic challenges at the moment.

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