By John Okeke
Respite seems to be on the way for the 41 years old Ajaokuta Steel plant as the Hon. Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite and National Assembly reiterated commitment towards completion of the Steel plant.
This was contained in a statement by Idowu Jokpeyibo, from Communication departnent .
The Minister, while addressing the Senate leaders on over-sight visit to Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) on Thursday, July 23, 2020 said both the Executive and the Legislature would ensure that Ajaokuta Steel Company is revived and made operational.
He appreciated the Senate leaders for their support, “I commend members of the committee for their encouragement and support. There is a bright future for all Nigerians when the complex is restored and starts producing at its optimal installed capacity”.
The minister noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had limited government’s ability to go forward on the Ajaokuta Steel project, saying that it was four to five months behind its planned schedule to revive the complex.
This, he said, was specifically because Russian experts who were to undertake the complex’s technical audit could not come into the country because of the corona virus pandemic and the ban on international flights. He noted that the complexity of the Ajaokuta Steel Company would make an online audit impossible as people had to be physically present.
He added that the technical audit that was being planned for Ajaokuta Steel Company by the Federal Government would also be done at NIOMCO. “We have the same purpose and we are focused that this project is delivered to the benefit of Nigerians, the people of Kogi and to the glory of God,” he said.
He said the Federal Government sees NIOMCO and Ajaokuta Steel Company as a conjoined-twin that could not be separated and that the Federal Government would rely on money pledged by Russians and Afrexim bank to fix both Ajaokuta Steel Complex and NIOMCO.
Adegbite, said both the Executive and the Legislature would ensure that ASCL and NIOMCO become operational before long.
“We have the same purpose and we are focused that this project is delivered to the benefit of Nigerians, the people of Kogi and to the glory of God,” he emphasized.
The Senate Leader, Sen Abdulahi Yahaya who was accompanied by the Senate Committee Chairman on Solid Mineral, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Sen. Tanks Al-Makura and other Senate leaders said National Assembly would ensure that efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari to revive ASCL and NIOMCO come to fruition.
In the same vein, the Committee Chairman, Sen. Tanko Almakura, said Senate leaders were on a fact finding mission in the State to ascertain the situation of things at ASCL and NIOMCO and ensure they commence production within shortest possible time
Sen Al-Makura said the technical audit remains paramount and cardinal towards the successful take off of ASCL and NIOMCO.
Earlier in his speech, the Kogi State Deputy Governor, Edward Onoja who received the delegations on behalf of the State Governor expressed hope that with the renewed commitment of the Federal Government to resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel Company, it would be fully operational before the tenure of the present administration ends.
The Sole Administrator of NIOMCO, Itakpe, Mr. Augustus Nkechika while receiving the delegations stressed the need to fully complete the rehabilitation of the company’s plants and acquire additional mining equipment before the planned resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company by the Federal Government.
Nkechika said NIOMCO’s mandate to provide basic raw materials for iron and steel production makes it strategic to the country as the company is expected to supply Ajaokuta Steel Company with 2.15 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate and other raw materials.
The Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta, Engr. Sumaila Akaaba is hopeful that the completion of Ajaokuta would be realistic before the end of President Buhari’s regime as he said the commitment of the present administration to making the steel plant work is unrivalled.
The Ajaokuta Steel complex conceived in 1976, was aimed at establishing a metallurgical process plant and engineering complex with other facilities which is meant to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the industrialization of Nigeria.