…Says Nigeria loses 4 Billion Dollars annually on Steel importation
By Palma Ileye
Federal Government through the Ministry of Steel Development has said that a ten-year national roadmap plan for the country’s Steel sector development and a three-year plan to revive Ajaokuta Steel Complex would soon be unveiled.
Minister of Steel Development, Prince Abubakar Shuaibu Audu stated this yesterday during an interactive session with newsmen at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Abuja.
Audu noted that Nigeria’s abundant mineral resources held the key to reshaping the nation’s economic landscape and extending the benefits of Democracy to every citizen.
He said that the country was ready to take a leading role in the Steel market across the globe assuring that this was part of the present administration’s efforts, to encourage indigenous Steel companies as well.
According to the Minister, Government was set to collaborate with foreign investors to establish new Steel plants as engagements have already commenced with China to identify an ideal location for a Steel plant.
On the revival of the Ajaokuta Steel Industry, he said that an estimated $1-10 Billion investment was required, with the potential to create 500,000 direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.
He said, “About the three-year plan for Ajaokuta Steel and whether we should assume that it would start working, I think the short answer is yes.
“The three-year plan is to enable us to start production of some form of Steel in the next three years, so we should be able to get the Light Steel Mill working, the engineering workshop working, we should be able to get some of the lines plants working and operating at near full capacity or full capacity.
“Part of what we would also do within that three years is to concession it to a concessionaire that has the required skill-set to be able to have liquid steel production coming out of blast points. Ideally, in a perfect scenario, that’s what we would like.
“And I suspect that the concession agreement to be worthwhile for the concessionaire would have to be a minimum of let’s say, 10 or 30 years agreement where they would be able to recoup their capital.
“What I will be doing in the near future is to visit indigenous companies.I don’t want the indigenous companies to feel left out. The Federal Government is here to support them to ensure that their company continues to boom. Some of them have been here for over 50 years and we need to encourage them. They are big employer of labour who have invested a lot of money in steel production.
“What makes a developed or underdeveloped country is steel. God has blessed us with a lot of mineral resources, especially steel. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu set up this Ministry in August last year because of his love to develop the country through steel. There are many things we need to do in the next few months in order to achieve the president’s mandate.”
He disclosed that the country loses 4 Billion Dollars to Steel importation annually noting that one of the important thing the Governnmnt was doing is to create an enabling environment for Steel to be produced locally to reduce importation.
He also stated that the Steel Ministry will collaborate with Ministries of Works and Defence to ensure possible markets and appropriate usage of produced Steel in the country.
“We have the target of reviving the Ajaokuta steel plant within 3 years. In our roadmap, we need to achieve immediate success or short term success. I have been in talks with the Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi. I’ve also been in talks with the Minister of State for Defence, Dr. Bello Muhammed Matawalle, so that we can be producing military hardware.
“If you look at some of the things we are trying to do, we will create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs. Also, we will be encouraging indigenous companies as employers of labour who have invested a lot of money in steel production. 90% of our steel is imported, while 10% is produced in the country. We spend over 4 billion dollars annually to import steels in Nigeria. We want to reverse that by producing more than we import.
“The three year plan is for Ajaokuta steel to start working in near full capacity or in full capacity. We will concession it to concessionaires who have the knowledge about steel production. We don’t have the capacity to produce rods and other steels at the moment, but we need to start from somewhere. We need to listen to potential concessionaires to know if they have the knowledge about steel production.
“Industrialisation goes hand in hand with steel production. Many things we use in Nigeria today contains a certain amount of steel. Whether it is a building project, microphone stand, TV tripod, name it, steel is needed. We need more steel production plants to cater for the demands for steel by over 220 million Nigerians. Ajaokuta steel plant is not even enough,” the Minister explained.
Also, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Mary Ogbe said that Governnmnt was working in the area of training more artisans who would be ISO certified to work in indigenous Steel companies.
Saying that, “We have our Metallurgical Training Institute, MTI, in Onitsha were we can train artisans to enable them start something. Even when you go to China, those that run Steel companies are not graduates. So, as we are planning to have Steel industries, we also need certified artisans to work there. So, we plan to have ISO certification for MTI and get young people trained.”
Ogbe added that this will contribute to skill development, economic empowerment and growth of the Steel sector in the country.