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Iron & Steel stakeholders’ decry FG’s interest in completing rail than reviving sector
Leading stakeholders in Nigeria’s Iron and Steel industry have lamented what they described as the policy of putting the cart before the horse in the development of moribund Iron and Steel companies in Nigeria.
Participants at a 2-day National Steel Summit 2018 with theme, ‘Diversification of the Nigerian economy – the Indispensable Role of the Steel Industry’ held in Lagos recently expressed confusion on the misplacement of priorities on the side of government in spending fortunes developing railways that will move iron and steel products form moribund companies.
Business Hilights recalls that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi had last week disclosed the current administration has spent well over N200bn in completing the Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Adeja-Warri rail line and the line will be delivered before the end of this year.
However, all the companies the railway is designed to carry their iron and steel products are in coma.
A participant who pleaded anonymity said on the sideline of the summit that “For the federal government to be more interested in delivering the railway along the Nigerian Iron and Steel region without working towards revitalizing the Ajaokuta Steel Complex (ASC), Itakpe mine and even the Warri iron and Steel factories is very hard to explain”.
“How can a government be spending much on a rail scheme meant for carrying products from a dead company instead of first of all reviving the company or at least making genuine efforts to bring back ASC so that the rail on completion will see what to carry to the ports for exports”.
“I recall that the same government was planning to sell off the complex before the leadership of National Assembly and the Speaker to the precise raised alarm.
“Am aware that all ASC needs now is nothing more than $1bn to come alive, but government is still playing politics with what I may describe as the heart Nigeria’s Iron and Steel industry. A company we have been hearing about since many of us now that are working class Nigerians were in secondary schools.
The expert argued that “As far as am concerned, spending billions of naira to build railway on an Iron and Steel corridor without fixing the companies amounts to placing the cart before the horse and that means no movement”.
“What it, after the inauguration of the railway, in less than one year, weeds will over grow the line because there is no human traffic or iron products to run on the tracks.
Earlier in his keynote address while declaring open the summit, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Abubakar Bwari said the country had lagged behind in terms of industrialization, which many other countries that were classified as third world countries have now joined the league of industrialised countries of the world.
Bwari said the Summit was targeted at achieving many objectives, including enhancing interaction and devising strategies for the sustainable development of the metals sector; creating a platform for dialogue between government and metals industry stakeholders as well as evolving acceptable time-bound strategies towards fulfilling the goals of developing the metals sector in Nigeria.
According to him, “Considering the fact that the consumption rate of steel and other metal products is regarded as a major index of industrialisation, it is obvious that Nigeria is seriously lagging behind, even by the standard of developing nations”, he further explained.
“Indeed, considering the versatility of steel as an industrial material, Nigeria could easily join the comity of steel producing nations if our abundant iron ore resources are effectively harnessed to produce crude steel.”
Though he revealed that “We have made great progress in resolving the legal issues surrounding the Ajaokuta Steel Complex,” he failed to give further details on the plans of government thereafter.
On the Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), Bwari disclosed that “we have made significant progress in our effort to bring the company back to life with the approval of the National Council on Privatisation that Messrs UC Rusal be restated as core investor.”