Amid renewed efforts to revitalise the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), Itakpe, the federal government has ruled out the privatisation of the two firms, which are located in Kogi State.
The government said that the decision was informed by the fact that the companies are totally dependent on each other.
The minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, who dropped the hint, said that when the steel and iron ore companies are repositioned, their ownership and management would not be left in private hands.
Adegbite was at the Itakpe mining plant yesterday on the first day of his two-day working visit to the company and the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
He said: “The Iron ore mining company is very important to Ajaokuta – the reason why the so-called modification concession agreement doesn’t make sense.”
The minister said that “if you place the soul of Itakpe in a private hand, and you want Ajaokuta to function, then we are wasting our time. If Itakpe does not function, Ajaokuta is going to be an empty soul.
“That’s why government must have control of Itakpe and also be able to produce in Ajaokuta. As it were, Alaja Steel in Delta State has been privatised, but Ajaokuta and Itakpe will remain in government’s hand. And, will produce to the benefit of Nigerians,” he said.
The governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, who accompanied the minister to the plant, expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his renewed efforts at making Itakpe and Ajaokuta work.
Governor Bello urged the federal government to do everything possible to ensure that the companies become fully operational within two years.
He said: “On behalf Kogi people, I thank the president, the minister, the staff of the companies and all the stakeholders for their sacrifices towards the completion of the projects.
“There is no doubt that when the projects become operational, they will be of immense benefit to Kogi State and the country in general,” he said.
Earlier, the management of NIOMCO briefed Adegbite and other officials on the state of the plant and the challenges militating against its operation, which he identified as underfunding, insufficient man power, and infrastructural deficiency.
Ajaokuta Steel Can Provide 50,000 Jobs – Metallurgical Society
To the Nigerian Metallurgical Society (NMS), when completed, Ajaokuta Steel Company has the capacity to generate about 50,000 jobs for Nigerians.
NMS president, Prof. Suleiman Hassan, who is also the director-general, Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences, Jos, Plateau State, stated this yesterday in Ilorin, Kwara State at the society’s 2019 conference/annual general meeting (AGM).
The theme of the AGM was “The Role of Metallurgical Industries in Sustainable Development Goals.”
Hassan said: “Upon the completion of the first phase, Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited will generate about 10,000 jobs for our teaming youths; this will progressively increase to about 20,000 workforce at the third phase and it is a known fact that for every job created in the steel plant, 20 other jobs are created upstream and downstream each.”
Hassan posited that the resuscitation of all the steel industries in the country would lead to the country’s industrialisation.
He added that metallurgical industries can contribute meaningfully to the development of human resources and poverty reduction in Nigeria.
“The contribution of the metallurgical industries towards the realisation of the aims and objectives of government cannot be overemphasised. There is this common cliché that ‘one’s destiny is in one’s hands.’ One can, therefore, conveniently and confidently say that Nigeria’s industrial salvation is in Nigeria’s own hands. This is the reference to the completion, revitalisation, resuscitation, commissioning and operationalisation of all the metallurgical industries in Nigeria as functional and viable for sustainable development goals.
“To industrialise, there is the need to have a sound industrial base. This will provide the solid foundation on which the industrial superstructure will be built. This industrial base is nothing other than well-developed metallurgical industries with competent and well-developed human resources that will be producing such critical raw materials as cast iron, rods and bars, wires, structural steels, sheet steels, stainless, and other special alloyed steel,” Hassan stated.
Nigeria, US Meet On Infrastructure Financing In Riyadh
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the willingness of his administration to mobilise more capital from development finance institutions for the upgrade of critical infrastructure in the country.
The president, according to a statement issued by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, met with the United States (US) Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, in Riyadh on Wednesday where they discussed on investments in Nigeria under the new United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC), which provides $60 billion for investments in developing countries.
Speaking at the meeting held on the margins of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum, President Buhari said that Nigeria will leverage on the US facility to address current challenges confronting her power sector as well as the general upgrade of infrastructure.
Buhari thanked the US government for supporting Nigeria’s anti-terrorism efforts.
The president and Mnuchin also discussed areas of strengthening Nigeria’s ongoing collaboration with the US on checking terrorism financing.
Mnuchin was accompanied by Brent Macintosh, undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and Marshall Billingslea, assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing in the US Treasury Department.
The US official used the occasion to introduce Macintosh who was recently promoted undersecretary for International Affairs by President Donald Trump after the previous Under Secretary David Malpass became the president of the World Bank.
The Nigerian leader congratulated Macintosh on his elevation and requested for his continued support for Nigeria, especially in accessing the $60 billion infrastructure fund under the USIDFC.
Similarly, Buhari has accepted an invitation from the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, for the establishment of Nigeria-Saudi Council to promote investments and enhance relations between the two countries.
In a separate a statement, Shehu (presidential aide), said that the decision was the highpoint of a bilateral meeting between the Nigerian leader and the Crown Prince which took place on the margins of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference.
The meeting was initially scheduled to hold in the office of the crown prince but out of courtesy and respect for the Nigerian leader, Prince Salman insisted that he would meet with Buhari in his hotel room at The Ritz Carlton, Riyadh.
The council will comprise government officials and business leaders from both countries and will focus on economic growth and development, investments in oil and non-oil sectors, and security cooperation.
Buhari and the Crown Prince agreed that the first assignment for the council was the establishment of a legal and operational framework to facilitate investments beneficial to both countries.
The council will be established within two months while meetings will be held twice every year.
To sustain the cordial relationship between both countries, the council agreed that leaders of both countries, at the highest level, will meet at least once a year to review the progress of the joint council and ensure closer collaboration on issues of mutual interest.
President Buhari thanked the crown prince for the kingdom’s interest in investing in Nigeria and the initiative to establish the council which would form the foundation for a stronger Nigeria-Saudi relationship.
‘‘Nigeria has a large population mainly made up of dynamic, young people and partnerships of this type will help them to be productive and prosperous,’’ Buhari said, adding that his government will continue to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Nigeria.
On regional and international issues, President Buhari agreed with the crown prince that with the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the next frontier for terrorism is the Sahel region.
He commended the Saudi authorities for keeping security situation in the Sahel region on the front burner.
Earlier, the crown prince said that the security challenges in the Sahel should be seen as global issues.
‘‘Saudi Arabia is prepared to participate in the engagement and sensitisation of the whole world to the problems in sub-Saharan Africa,’’ he said.
On bilateral issues, the crown prince reiterated the preparedness of the Kingdom to support Nigeria’s development agenda, noting that the country has the potential to be among the top 20 economies in the world.
‘‘Saudi Arabia is eager to support Nigeria and we want to be a part of Nigeria’s journey to be among the top 20 economies in the world,’’ he said.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Buhari that Saudis have invested $40 billion in India, $10 billion in Pakistan and $20 billion in Indonesia and was willing to do the same in Nigeria given the favourable business environment.