Engineering Technology has gifted us unique and infinite developments recently. Thus the universal opinion is that iron and steel should be highly developed both in cost, maintenance and construction as prospecting Iron and steel would bridge a gap in development between the past and present generations. The Ajaokuta steel plant is an industry that can conveniently deluge the avalanche of the teeming population of unemployed in the country. Hence the urgency to bring to knowledge the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel making blast furnace(s) in open fora, workshops and seminars as to prepare Nigerians for the benefits and challenges of modern steel making.
In 1985, Nigeria as a growing nation in iron and steel production was incorporated into the world union of steel production. Then, the first crude steel production by Aladja and Ajaokuta steel plant was 243,000 and 77,948 tons respectively, with 540,000 and 43,843 tons capacity coils rolled out respectively by these plants. On this early effort, Nigeria was accorded due honour and respect by world bodies of steel production such as India, Germany, Russia.
The combination of iron and steel production coupled with crude oil background spots Nigeria as a strong nation with industrial growth. This can benefit the creation of nuclear weapons, ship building, locomotives and aeronautics space research as ingredients of national economic development.
The effort of the federal government to revamp the only blast furnace started by the Russians in 1979 in Ajaokuta is laudable. It is time this nation, viably blessed in all mineral and crude oil resources woke up and opened the flood gate of employment for her teeming applicants, while focus is on the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant.
However, two main challenges to be encountered by the nation upon the commissioning of the plant are: The doubled population of applicants since 1979, following the collapse of the Ajaokuta and Aladja Steel Plant and paucity of the formerly available trained manpower to handle the management of the plant as to meet up the objective of the target of 1,000,000 liquid steel tons. These needs will hence require the training of manpower personnel of all categories in departments of the iron and steel.
Through 1976 to 1981, a number of Nigerian Engineers and technologists were trained in various countries across Europe by some organizational bodies such as UNIDO ILO–International Labour Organization as to meet up the target of steel production across all engineering disciplines, showing vastly the extent to which iron and steel plant production can accommodate employment of applicants nationwide.
My humble advice is that the minister of Mines and Steel, urgently make now the time for manpower training while the blast furnace is being completed. Secondly, the federal government needs to include the state governments as shareholders, therefore requiring more blast furnaces across the nation as to engage at least 50% of the teeming roaming applicants in the country.
Training of would-be technologists and technicians can be done in the National Metallurgical Training Institute, Onitsha and National Institute for Construction and Management, Uromi in Edo State while would-be engineers/technicians could be sent to parts of Europe for further training.
While the full construction of the Ajaokuta blast furnace is on high gear by the federal government, an operational plant should be urgently constructed and capacitated as previously envisaged by then government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari of blessed memory, on the same gear parypasu to urgently support acquisition of refractory products for iron/ steel. With the present arrangement by the federal government, the first refractory products may have to come from Russia/ Ukraine Republics, unless exceptional efforts are made by the Minister of Mines and Steel, where Itakpe iron ore production can be boosted and other states explored for their solid minerals.
The minister may work within this purview to see to the success of Ajaokuta steel plant and with particular reference to the completion of the blast furnace by the Russian consortium/ contractors and should solicit for experienced professionals so as to meet up with the commissioning of the plant.
– Engr. Okpebholo, a public affairs analyst wrote from Abuja