Dr Sanusi Mohammed is the Secretary General of the African Iron and Steel Association. In this interview with Ruth Tene, he calls on the federal government to ignore the conditions given by the World Bank so as to develop the steel sector
How would you say the Steel sector is faring in Nigeria?
Poorly, very poorly. Nigeria has all the ingredients, virtually 95 per cent of the raw materials it needs to produce steel locally, but until now we have not tapped it. The Nigerian government established two integrated steel industries, one in Ajaokuta , another one in Delta State but the Ajaokuta is still on for years until now they have not produced one kilogram of steel, they are still converting steel in the Rolling mill but no production. Delta steel is producing a bit of steel but substantially below capacity; the highest they ever reached was 25 per cent of capacity. Now Nigeria needs up to 18 million tonnes of steel per annum to meet the threshold of industrialisation but today it is consuming between six and 10 per cent, maximum is 10 kilograms instead of 130 Kg per annum, so there is a lot of need for further expansion of the steel industry in Nigeria like the ones we saw these morning
What is the implication of poor production/poor consumption in the steel sector?
Lack of political will, if I can summarise it that way. Among all the government that we have had over the years very few of them, not more than three showed keen interest in the development of the steel sector. The Shagari government, in fact I can say even the Yakubu Gowon administration started the whole machinery of this industry which invited the Russians to come and carry out a survey and they confirmed that yes Nigeria is an industry because the raw materials are there then the Shagari administration built Ajaokuta, Itakpe Delta, Katsina, among others thereafter it was on and off. During the time of the Minister of Power and Steel, Tunji Sharaban Shola and his minister of state, Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Gusau they tried very well for the steel industry but they were shortlived as ministers. But this is the time that we are seeing government interest to revive the steel sector.
Would you say the Sector is a Revenue generating sector?
You are absolutely correct, all over the world, no country has developed without the steel industry, this is how India, Iran Japan , Britain America and France among other developed countries of the world developed, up till today they have technology similar to Nigeria’s own, black furnace in Ajaokuta, direct production of industrial steel
So if it is so viable, why is it not self sustaining?
It is not self sustaining because unfortunately we have leaders who are subservient to world bank advices, World Bank has been destroying Nigeria’s industrialization by giving conditions to all the laws Nigeria was taking and part of the conditions are do not spend billions on steel it is cheaper for you to import than for you to produce, but unfortunately that advise has never worked and will never work
So what do you recommend?
My recommendation is to hell with the world bank advice as far as this area is concern, Nigerian leadership should pay attention to the Iron and Steel development which is the backbone of industrialization and will afford our young ones who have now become armed robbers, child traffickers and all sort of things, they can be gainfully employed and will become more financially independent and because of that the economy of the country will develop. Look at the company they say they are going to employ 10,000 Nigerians and that is just a private concern so yes I think this is a good step in the right direction and I think Nigeria government must pay attention to complete Ajaokuta , revive Delta Steel and make it productive and encourage private entrepreneurs to come in and join hands with government but there is no way the government can say they have taken off their hands from iron and steel development, they are only going to be regulating. British government has privatised its Steel industry but they are participating.