… Reveals plans to make Ajaokuta Industrial Park, Free Trade Zone to attract Foreign Direct Investment
By Palma Ileye
Minister of Steel Development, Prince Shuaibu Abubakar Audu has reiterated Federal Government’s committment to ensure that Ajaokuta Steel Plant begin production for the industrialization of the country, create jobs and wealth as well as attract foreign direct investment.
According to the Ministry’s press release issued yesterday, Audu who was accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Mary A Ogbe, on a 3-day working visit, made this known during his maiden tour of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant on Wednesday 4th of October, 2023 in Kogi State.
He revealed that the Ministry of Steel Development was working on a Road Map that will contain a 3-Year Revival Plan for the Revitalisation of Ajaokuta Steel Plant as well as contain recommendation to designate the Plant Area as an Industrial Park that would be a Free Trade Zone to attract local and international investors.
He noted that in line with the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, the administration was committed to ensure that the Steel Plant which has been moribund for about 45 years was resuscitated and begin production before the end of it’s tenure, noting that the Plant when revived, would be beneficial to all as it will create about 500 thousand jobs for the teeming Nigeria youths.
Speaking further, the Minister stated that the purpose of the facility visit was to ascertain the operational and none operational level of the Plant and make recommendations on how to turn the Plant around to begin to production, noting that production of Steel sheets from the Ajaokuta Steel Plant would be a significant achievement for the administration, a feat that has not been achieved in over 45 years.
He disclosed that though the task to get the Plant running was an arduous one, he solicited the support of all Stakeholders, stating that with the support and sincerity of purpose of all stakeholders, success would be achieved.
Furthermore, the Minister of Steel Development, revealed that Ajaokuta Steel Company if gotten right will create over 500,000 jobs which will be enough to lift Nigerians out of poverty.
“We want to thank the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu for having the vision to create a Steel Development Ministry. Over the past 40 years, we had the largest Steel Plant in Nigeria and one of the largest West Africa which has not functioned but the President knows that in other to industrialize Nigeria, we have to get the steel industry working.
“In line with the 8 point agenda of ‘Renewed Hope mantra’ of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the key elements are job creation, diversification of the economy and to attract Foreign Direct Investment. If we are able to revitalize Ajaokuta, it will help us achieve this. This key point agenda will also help us eradicate poverty.
“To achieve this, we have put together two documents. A three-year plan for the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company which will have a Small and Medium Term Plan.
“Part of the things is the roadmap to designate the 24,000 hectares land of Ajaokuta an Industrial Park, to create a Free Trade Zone that will further attract Foreign Direct Investment.
“My job is to try and ensure that all those typical issues that have held the plant from producing will be resolved. And by the first term of this administration, if we are able to produce some sheet of steel, it will be a significant achievement.
“I have taken an extensive tour of the complex and plants, and there are lots of opportunities that if we are able to unlock we will be able to create over 500,000 jobs which will benefit kogites bit more importantly, Nigerians. This will also guarantee that everyone benefits from the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
The Minister said that the investors will carry out an advanced technical audit of the Steel complex and its facilities so see what more was to be done.
“I am being accompanied here today by investors who are ready to put their expertise to ensure that this steel company works.
“We have the Russians, Americans, Arabs and Chinese who are showing interest. They have come to show their desire to carry out an advanced technical audit to see what needs to be completed.
“After my findings from here, we will forward everything to Mr President for his approval,” Audu said.
In his welcome address, the Sole Administrator, Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, ASCOL, Engr. Sumaila Abdul-Akab, said the working visit would afford the Minister and Permanent Secretary first- hand information and investment opportunities that abound in the Plant.
Sumaila noted that the benefits that would accrue from the completed and operationalised Plant cannot be overemphasized, stating that the nation’s revenue generation from the project, when completed, commissioned and operational will have a huge impact on the accruals to the Federation Account as well as help galvanize development in Kogi as the host State and Nigeria in general.
“Unlike the thinking of so many people, Ajaokuta is not obsolete but only requires the right attention to get the multi-billion dollar running again.
“All we have to do as staff is to join hands with the visions of the President and also key into the plans of the Minister,” Abdul-Alkaba said.
Meanwhile, Mr Jalil Hkoodshoev, a Foreign Investor from Novostal-M Company in Russia, applauded the initiatives of Mr. President in reviving the company.
Hkoodshoev noted that with what they have seen on ground, they are very interested in investing in the company, adding that the resuscitation of the company would be a big impact not only to Nigeria but the entire West Africa, and the African region in general.
“I assisted His Excellency with this trip to Ajaokuta, I am mesmerized about the size of the plant. It is amazing and I think that the initiatives that have been taken by His Excellency, the President of Nigeria will have a big impact not only for Nigeria but all the sub-region and all of Africa.
“I hope that in the next couple of years, we can participate also as partners of the government for this project, and for the steel business,” Hkoodshoev said.