The dream of Nigeria to have reliable steel industry that will not only form the bed rock of the country’s industrialization, but also place her in a competitive position with her counterparts worldwide led the Federal Government to come up with the idea to restructure its priorities.
Thus culminating into the establishment/take off of several steel projects in Nigeria, such as Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, Delta Steel Company Limited Aladja, Jos Steel rolling mills, Inland rolling mills in Osogbo, Katsina rolling mills and the Nigeria machine tools Limited also in Oshogbo. It is unfortunate to mention that most of these steel projects are today liquidated and under lock and key.
The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited the largest steel industry in Africa and third in the world remained moribund and yet to see the light of the day because it’s final completion has become a political issue with successive governments.
Part of several failed efforts by past administrations to fix this integrated steel plant and give a boost to the country’s industrialization drive gave birth to the idea to concessionaire the steel project, thus leading to the signing of dual concession agreements at various times between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Solgas Energy Ltd and Global infrastructure holdings Ltd, under Olusegun Obansajo’s administration.
Today, it is interesting to learn that all legal issues that trailed the review of the concession agreement has finally been resolved by the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is also heart warming to note the efforts of the Buhari administration in the area of the completion of the Itakpe – Warri – Ajaokuta rail project for the movement of goods/services and people. However, of serious concern to this writer is the recent notion in some quarters that the present administration has listed Ajaokuta steel company as one of the state – owned outfits to be disposed of during Buhari’s First Tenure.
This unpopular opinion was given credence to by the manufacturer Association of Nigeria. Some critics of the Buhari administration even claimed that the completion of the steel project is far from Buhari’s heart, adding that it accounted for the president’s casual comments of the projects when he came on campaign visit to Kogi State before the last general elections.
However, while this negative opinion persists, both chambers of the 8th National Assembly towards the end of it’s tenure passed a resolution for the government to remove ASCL/NIOMCO Itakpe from the list of outfits billed for privatization and recommended that government should put $1 billion for the completion of the steel plant. Sad enough, this lofty proposal of the 8th National Assembly was rejected by President Buhari on the ground that the recommendation did not have the input of relevant organs, such as the ministry of power and steel. The above action of both chambers of the National Assembly summarises the wish of Nigerians on the issue of Ajaokuta steel project.
Therefore, what Nigerians are waiting for is for President Muhammadu Buhari to “reconsider” and assent to the resolution of the immediate past National Assembly by releasing the appropriated funds for the completion of the steel plant. Whereas some critics have variously described President Muhammadu Buhari as not too good in the management of the country’s economy, some said he lacks the political will to tackle the industrial growth of the country, but in my candid view, no reasonable leader will not wish the development of his/her constituency well.
As reasonable followers too, what our leaders expects is our support, by way of good suggestions/advice. Both the leader and followers must resist the temptation of trivializing and politicizing issues. It is therefore my candid opinion that the President should use the opportunity of his second coming to lay the foundation for the industrial growth of the country, by ensuring that Ajaokuta Steel Project is fully completed and operational.
“By So Doing, The President Would Have Not Only Proved That Nigeria’s Progress Is Not Tied To Foreign Dictates, But Also That He Is Capable Of Managing Well The Economy Of The Country”. First, President Buhari should jettison the idea of privatizing ASCL/NIOMCO Itakpe by aligning himself with the resolution of the 8th National Assembly on the need to complete Ajaokuta steel project in line with the wishes of generality of Nigerians.
This is because records have shown that public utilities like N.E.P.A, NITEL AND others privatized by past administrations did not bring about the expected improvement or positive result in terms of economic gains and services. Rather, the exercises tends to enrich the various individuals/management of the utilities so privatized to the disadvantage of the public.
Apart from the fact that the completion of Ajaokua steel project will lead to the industrialization of the country and by extension enable the country to attain economic, viability, the project when completed will generate mass employment for the citizens; reduce joblessness and crime in our society. To demonstrate commitment, the President should direct the ebullient Minister of Mines and Steel, Hon. Olamilekun Adegbite to reaccess the current condition of the steel plant and report to him (President) before Mr. President pay a working visit to the steel plant with a view to having a personal assessment of the gigantic project that have remained neglected and wasting.
Apart from assenting to the resolution of the National Assembly on the steel project, the President should come out with a reform in the supervising ministry in order to ensure that best hands professionals are given the opportunity to manage the steel company. In this regards, this writer who has interacted with First Republic leaders, the military leaders all through Nigeria Civil War 1967 – 1970 applauds the choice of the new Sole Administrator of ASCL, Engr. Ismail Abdul-Akaaba has brought life back to the steel territory in assumption of office. It is our conviction that with every necessary support, the steel plant can grow under the supervision of the new Sole Administrator and move to the next level in line with President Buhari’s second term agenda.