Imo Governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, says that no country can develop industrially without harnessing her mines and metal sector.
Ihedioha stated this at the 2nd Nigeria Metallurgical Industry Stakeholders’ Forum (MISF) organised by the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development for South-East stakeholders on Monday in Owerri.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the two-day seminar had the theme, “Building Local Capacities for the Development of the Nigeria Metal Sector.”
Ihedioha, who commended the ministry for the choice of Imo as host, said the theme was in tandem with the Rebuild Imo Agenda of his government which the main thrust was to revive the power sector for industries to thrive.
He said most industries depended on the metal sector, adding that any country that ignored the metal sector does so at her own risk, pointing out that the metal sector contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries.
The governor noted that the state was committed to the growth and development of its technical and industrial sector, adding that in most developed economies the metal sector was the highest employer of labour.
He called on the Federal Government to improve on the steel capacity of the country for it to achieve much and by extension connect Owerri and Onitsha to the rail line.
Ihedioha urged the participants to take advantage of the programme and dedicate themselves to finding solutions to the technical and steel need of the country.
Earlier, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah, Minister of State, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, said the theme was in tandem with federal government’s resolve to vigorously pursue the diversification of the economy inter-alia the minerals and metals sector of the Nigerian economy.
He noted that the metal industry formed the bedrock on which the industrialisation and development of any nation of the world were built.
The minister said that without the steel and other metal industry, no meaningful technological advancement would be achieved.
“Virtually, all other sectors of the economy rely on the metal sector in one way or the other to thrive, including power, agriculture, transportation, industry, electricity/electronics, construction, roads, and housing,” he said.
Ogah pointed out that Nigeria’s interest in the development of iron and steel industry dated back to 1958, with further action taken in the immediate post-independence era.
According to him, other countries that started their metallurgical sector in a similar way like Nigeria have been able to lift their economies from third world poverty and starvation due to the industrialisation they had achieved via a well-developed metallurgical industry.
He identified these countries to include South Korea, Algeria, Tunisia, India, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Irag.
Ogah described metallurgy as the branch of science and technology concerned with the study of the properties of metals, their production and purification.
He added that mineral processing, physical metallurgy, smelting, extractive metallurgy and steel production were all metallurgical processes.
The minister said that the metal sector had to be positioned to amongst others improve the power, transportation, construction industry, manufacturing, agricultural sectors, and the mining and mineral processing.
He solicited for local and foreign private investments in these areas and many other sectors, assuring that government would create the enabling environment.
“The desire of the federal government of Nigeria to diversify the economy from a mono-product economy predominantly dependent on oil and gas revenues to other sectors such as minerals and metals is well known to you.
“Aside from the seven strategic minerals (Iron ore, Lead/Zinc, Gold, Baritas, Bitumen and Limestone) every local government in Nigeria has one or more minerals located in it,” he said.
The minster identified other advantages of the metal industry on other sectors of the economy to include foreign exchange earnings and sustenance, contribution toward increasing the Gross Domestic Product, creation of job opportunities and acquisition of technical skills leading to technology transfer to Nigerians.
Others were exploitation of the abundant metal ore deposits and associated minerals to meet local demand and possible exports of surplus, springing up of economic activities in down-stream metallurgical industries and the mineral sector of the national economy and the mechanisation of the agricultural sector through the production of agro-processing plants and farm implements.