Federal government yesterday said steel importation had cost the country over $4 billion.
Minister of State for Solid Minerals, Abubakar Bawa Bwari disclosed this when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation on the ongoing investigative hearing on the Modified Niomco Concession Agreement.
Bwari lamented the poor state of Ajaokuta Steel Industry, adding that the steel company had become a “collective national shame.”
The minister said the steel industry, if revived, could solve Nigeria’s steel need.
He hinted that initially, he was against the privatization but said after studying the concession agreement, there was little or nothing the ministry could do.
In his presentation, the acting director-general of Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, Dr Vincent Akpotaire informed the committee that they did not handle the original concession of Ajaokuta to Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited, GINL.
The president-general, Ebira Youth Congress and representative of host community, Baba Abdulrazak said over 40 youths were murdered in the process of protecting the facility in 2008, arguing that it would be against wise reasoning to allow GINL, an Indian company, to return to Itakpe again, as he maintained that the host community was not carried along during the concession process or considered for job offers.
In his submission, the national chairman of Senior Staff Steel Workers, Comrade Otori Saliu called on federal government to block the loopholes in the concession of the National Iron Ore Mining Company, NIOMCO, to GINL.
While calling on the incoming investor to comply with all labour laws, Saliu insisted that all their entitlements and severance package must be paid.
The Secretary to Government of the Federation, Lawal Babachir and the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami were not in attendance for the second week running.
In his opening remarks, chairman of the committee, Hon Ahmed Yerima said the hearing was basically to interface with relevant stakeholders as regards the crisis facing the Ajaokuta Steel Industry and proffer lasting solution.
Meanwhile, members of the Association of Artisans and Small Scale Steel Fabricators of Nigeria, AASSSFN, have lauded the new agreement between the federal government and GSHL on NIOMCO, Itakpe, saying it would lead to the eventual resuscitation and operation of Ajaokuta, Delta and other smaller steel companies in the country.
Speaking to newsmen after their meeting in Abuja on Thursday, the national president of the association, Gilbert Akwarandu Udenkwo regretted that the federal government under former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua unilaterally terminated the concessions granted Global Steel by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, saying that the termination was responsible for the years the country had lost in its quest to become one of the leading steel making nations in the world.
“All the steel companies in Nigeria were completely down for many years before Obasanjo decided to give them out to Global Steel to operate. Ajaokuta was prostrate and without any meaningful activities from June 1993, same with Delta Steel and NIOMCO.
“After Obasanjo visited Ajaokuta and saw how terrible the situation was, he decided that the steel companies are better managed by private investors. He first gave Ajaokuta to Solgas Energies Limited but the company could not even rehabilitate the site before Global was brought in to salvage the situation.
“Following the concession of Ajaokuta to Global Steel, the investor quickly rehabilitated the steel company and put it back into operation, producing several steel products as well as payment, every month, of about N300million workers salaries.
“But when a new government of Yar’Adua took over in 2007, people who were sponsored by enemies of Nigeria began to write petitions, making unsubstantiated allegations that Global Steel was slow, that they were taking consumables to Delta and all that, which misled President Yar’Adua into terminating the concessions on Ajaokuta and others,” the association’s president said.

READ ALSO  Bill against sex-for-marks suffers setback in House of Reps