By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Boluwaji Obahopo
Organised labour and elders of Kogi State, have rejected planned sale of the Ajaokuta Steel Company, ASC, in Kogi State by the Federal Government, vowing to resist the planned sale.
Labour, through United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, and Kogi elders on the aegis of Kogi Elders Forum faulted the economic logic underlying the planned sale, describing it as either voodoo economics or prodigal economics.
It will be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had while briefing the Nigerian delegation at the end of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Group meetings in Bali, Indonesia, earlier in the week, said among others, “I am aware, as a member of the National Council on Privatisation, that more are coming and I believe in due course that the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE, will make this available for us. I am aware of the situation of Ajaokuta Steel Company of Nigeria. It is also on the cart, first for a total review of the process of privatisation and payment, so that our aluminum sector can eventually come alive,”
But, ULC in a statement by its President Joe Ajaero said among others: “ULC calls it Economic sabotage because of the seeming conscious effort by government policies to cause ‘demanufacturing” in Nigeria. When our basic infrastructure and capacity to enable manufacturing are intentionally undermined then, economic saboteurs may be at work. A roll call of other steel companies sold by the past governments; (Osogbo Steel Company; Katsina Steel, Jos Steel. Nigeria Machine Tools (NMT) Osogbo); shows that they have largely exited the steel industry and some turned into Warehouses for imports while a few others are doing skeletal production.
”The moment Ajaokuta is sold; we do not see anything that would stop it from joining the unfortunate league of the dead Steel group. The nation would then lose the benefits of an Ajaokuta Steel complex that was designed as a basic infrastructure for Steel development thus drives economic development in Nigeria. It is an integrated Steel complex that is capable of kick-starting the Steel sector and jump starting our economy. Selling it off will kill this dream just like the others.
“We call on this government to do what other responsible governments in other nations have done. Invest the required fund into Ajaokuta to complete the project and roll it out for the benefit of our nation. There are funds that are readily available that can be used to bring this project on stream. Federal Government’s share of the Paris Debt refund can be used, including the recovered Abacha’s loot and the different orphaned cash found in various places in the country as reported by the security agencies.”
On its part, Kogi elders in a statement issued in Lokoja said it would employ constitutional means to stop the sale of the steel company.
Chairman of the forum, Dr Julius Elukpo, described the government’s proposal as a rude shock, noting that the forum was opposed to the planned sale.
He also chided the Federal Government for foot dragging on the completion of the steel project, saying the outright sale of the plant will not be of interest to the country.
Elukpo said: “We will make the company a campaign issue for the 2019 election. The people of the state will be mobilized to vote for any presidential candidate that is ready to complete the project.”
The statement also deplored the state of Federal roads in the state, calling on the Federal Road Maintenance Agency to move in and get them fixed as soon as possible.