Nigeria can save over 700 million dollars spent to import steel materials annually if the National Iron Ore Mining Company Ltd. (NIOMCO)is rehabilitated.
Mr. Augustus Nkechika, the Acting Sole Administrator of NIOMCO said this on Thursday in Itakpe when Mr. Olamilekan Adegbete, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development paid a familiarisation visit to the company.
According to him, the location of NIOMCO is strategic. Nkechika noted that there were several iron ore deposits and steel making materials located within the radius of 100 kilometers from the company’s industrial plant which had direct rail line to Ajaokuta Steel Company.
He said these deposits had appreciable reserves, suitable metallurgical qualities confirmed to be suitable for steel production in the country.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade indicated that Nigeria imports iron and steel products worth 729.92 million dollars in 2018.
“This figure can also be seen as potential savings if NIOMCO plant is rehabilitated and properly funded to supply the iron ore requirements of Ajaokuta Steel Company and Delta Steel Company respectively,’’ he said.
He noted that in addition to landmass and population, the strength of a nation could also be viewed from the amount of steel it consumed.
Nkechika added that the 12.2 million tonnes of steel production goal of the Federal Government Vision 20:2020 which at the moment was apparently unachievable could still be kept in focus as the Economic Recovery Growth Plan is executed.
He, however, said that manpower was one of the company’s major challenges that should be addressed urgently aside from proper funding.
The acting sole administrator said that the company’s current highly skilled and experienced manpower aging.
According to him, a good number of the staff is at the retirement stage, as this will create a skill gap in the system when the company is rehabilitated.
He said the company’s manpower had gradually declined from 1,900 staff in 2005 to 1,300 in 2009 and 803 as of August 2019 due to resignations, retirements, transfers, and deaths.
Nkechika, therefore, appealed to the minister to give the company the go-ahead to recruit more staff as it awaits its rehabilitation.
He listed other challenges of the company to include: funding, bad road network, and inadequate mining requirements to facilitate full capacity utilisation of the beneficiary plant among others.
Nkechika thanked the minister for the visit and his interest in the company’s productivity and staff welfare.
He expressed optimism that the minister’s visit would help expedite the resolution of the pending critical issues confronting the company to enable it to fulfill its objectives.
According to him, though the company is not functional, the security of the plants and its other facilities are guaranteed.
The minister in his remarks assured that the Federal Government would not for any reason privatize NIOMCO and Ajaokuta Steel Company.
He stressed that though there was pressure from foreign investors to privatise the two companies, the Federal Government would not give in to such pressure.
Adegbete said the ministry would liaise with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the two companies became functional in record time, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari had resolved that Ajaokuta Steel Company would work.