The federal government is set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Russian firm for the resuscitation of the multi-billion naira Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill.
The agreement may be signed next month, the minister of Mines and Steel, Mr. Olamilekan Adegbite, said.
Adegbite, who was on a facility tour of the National Steel Raw Material Exploration Agency in Kaduna State, yesterday, said that the federal government means business on the revival of the steel rolling mill which was vigorously pursued by the administration of the late President Shehu Shagari.
The minister said that once the Russian contractors to handle the resuscitation of the mill were identified, the MoU would be signed and work would commence immediately. He said that the fund for the project was already in place, adding that a committee had been inaugurated to start the project.
Adegbite directed the director-general of the National Steel Raw Material Agency, Umar Hassan, to nominate two persons to be part of the committee, saying that the organisation was critical to the Ajaokuta project.
He said: “This agency is invaluable towards the resuscitation or development of Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mills. As you all know, the president is making sure that we resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel. We have taken the first step. Talks are on with the original builders, a Russian company; and drafts of MoU are being studied by both sides.
“And hopefully, sometime in January 2020, we will probably sign the MoU and once the contractors are identified from the Russian side, the funds are already in place, work will start,” he said.
Earlier in his address, Hassan had said that the agency, saddled with the responsibility of mining and exploration in the country, was constrained by inadequate skills and project vehicles, modelling software, and dilapidated offices.
Moves To Secure $500m AfDB Fund
Meanwhile, the federal government has initiated moves to secure a $500 million African Development Bank (AfDB) fund for technology innovation, the minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Richard Niyi Adebayo, has said.
The government also expressed its commitment to ensuring access to credit by 10 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) at single digit rate as well as activating the private sector-driven special industrial zones in Lekki, Enyimba, Funtua, Ibom, Kano and Benue.
Adebayo stated this known yesterday at the 11th meeting of the National Council on Industry in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.
The minister said that the Muhammadu Buhari administration would further work towards the realisation of one agro processing zone in each senatorial district to encourage farmers in the country.
He explained that the policies were meant to boost the government’s strategy towards the lifting of 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
Adebayo added that the ministry had initiated and implemented the One Local Government One Product Programme expected to generate over 4,900 jobs and had also established three facilities to help revamp SMEs in Sokoto, Aba and Minna.
According to him, “the National Enterprises Development Programme being implemented is generating 1,000,000 jobs annually. The programme is a strategic way of delivering enterprise development in the country by directly addressing critical factors that have inhibited the growth of the MSMEs’ sector.
“It is of interest to intimate the council that tremendous progress has been recorded in the areas of improved registration of enterprises, increased access of MSMEs to grants, improved capacity of MSMEs and job creation opportunities amongst others.
“There are over 100,000 MSMEs registered under the Business Innovative and Growth (BIG) platform, which is the only channel through which small firms can access the project intervention programme.
“It is my sincere believe that this 11th National Council meeting, judging by the calibre of members present and coupled with your proven experience and expertise will help in articulating pragmatic resolutions for repositioning the Small and Medium Scale Businesses for alleviating poverty and the eventual lifting of Nigeria to the next level of economic development,” he said.
In his remarks, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State said that the ongoing construction of a coconut plantation and refinery and the Ibom Deep Sea Port projects were programmes aimed at providing massive direct and indirect employment opportunities for skilled manpower from all over the world.
The state government, Emmanuel said had continued to boost power supply, essential for industrial sustenance by feeding 153 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the national grid and building four distribution sub-stations across the state.