The pathway to greatness for any society lies in the ability of the nation’s manager to optimize efficiently the human and natural resources available for the country. Nigeria in this wise, has been blessed with both human and natural resources needed to compete favourably with any countries of the world. However, the nation has been badly managed by individuals who see governance as tea party affairs. The country’s inability to manage it human resources has bred a society characterised by insecurity. Thus, Kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, “yahoo yahoo” and etc. are the buzz words in town. The plethora of natural resources available for the country is unimaginable. Unfortunately, the absence of visionary leaders has stalled the progress of the country and the nations now find itself in a very precarious situation of depending on other country for its own survival.
In the country’s grotesque manner, Nigeria import what it has in abundance and export what it does not have. The country continue to import goods like petroleum products, Tomato paste and etc. that it has comparative advantage over, while exporting Electricity it does not have to neighbouring Africa country. While the paltry dollars gotten from sales of crude oil has blinded our leaders from the potential in the petroleum sector, it is the complete neglect of the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASC) that continues to generate concern amongst the progressive in the country. The Ajaokuta Steel Company was incorporated in 1979 to ensure Nigeria self-sufficient in steel as well as to serve as a catalyst towards the country‘s industrialization drive. The corporation was expected to produce 1.3 million tonnes of steel per annum ab initio, with an expected expansion to 2.6 million per annum and upgrade to 5.2 million tonnes per annum as well as generating 10,000 direct jobs and over 500,000 indirect employment opportunities.
The Ajaokuta Steel Company has become a national embarrassment for the country has Nigeria continue to imports steel and aluminum product for it industrial use. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the country spent an estimated $4.5billion to import steel, aluminium products and associated derivatives of approximately 25 metric tonnes per annum. This come at a time when the country’s continental rivals; South Africa and Egypt produces at an optimum level of 6.3 million metric tonnes and 6.8 million metric tonnes yearly, respectively.
ASC occupied 24,000 hectares of land in Ajaokuta, Kogi state with a well-equipped thermal power plant of 110 megawatts capacity, as well as a separate lime, alumina silicate and tar bonded olomite plants and housing estates. How successive administration in the country continues to watch as such vital asset of that magnitude waste away is a myth. Once the corporation becomes operational, it will help to utilize resources like iron ore in kogi, coal and limestone in Enugu and consequently help states improve on IGR receipt.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s next level agenda is anchored on consolidating on the gains of his first term achievement as well as lifting millions of the country’s population out from the shackles of poverty. If these are to come to fruition, the Ajaokuta Steel Company has a major role to play in this herculean task. It now beholds on Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Olamilekan Adegbite and Minister for state, Dr. Ukachukwu Ogah to deploy their expertise garner over the years in both the public and private sector to suggest ways to take ASC out from this quagmire. These two men had shown in their previous responsibilities that they understand what it takes to achieve success.
It is a general consensus that privatization is the only way out for the near moribund Ajaokuta Steel company. The government of course is encumbered and cannot afford the $400 mmillion needed for the corporation to resume full operation. Although, it is a common knowledge that previous partnership with foreign firms as not yielded any significant change. In fact, it never rains but pours. However, this shouldn’t deter the government from forging ahead with a privatization plan, but rather, effort must be directed in finding investors that can be trusted and one that the government can thrust with it policies and programmes.
ASC is not a stand-alone project. In fact, previous discussions have only center on the privatization of ASC without recourse to other component side of the sector. The mining sites, railway links and the dredging of the River Niger are crucial to ASC success. Coupled with this is the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) in Itakpe built by Federal Government to process the low quality iron ore from Itakpe to iron suitable for Ajaokuta. Thus, there is a Siamese twin relationship between Ajaokuta Steel success and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) success. This is because it is only NIOMCO that can supply Iron Ore to ASC. Thus, if ASC must work, NIOMCO and other infrastructural facilities needed must also be put in place, without which, we will continue to run and run only to remain where we are.
Adeniran, a media enthusiast, writes from Kaduna via [email protected]