By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief & Gabriel Ewepu
The federal government has secured about $1.46 billion for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Mills in Ajaokuta, Kogi State.
The development signifies what could become an effective end to the over 40 year-delay in the completion of the multi-billion dollar project.
Minister of Mining and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, disclosed this in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja.
Adegbite said that the Russian Export Centre and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) had agreed to provide the funds.
According to him, the Russians who built the mills (under the then Soviet Union) were not only offering money but would also be the ones to complete it under an agreement that would serve as a game-changer for the company and the nation’s steel industry.
His words: “The beauty of it is that we got funding – the Russian Export Centre which is akin to what is called EXIM Bank in other countries, pledged a sum of $460 million towards this project, while Afreximbank which is the bank in which we are also shareholders, also pledged a billion dollars.”
The minister said that, once operational, the Ajaokuta Steel Complex would turn Nigeria into an industrial nation.
He stated: “Ajaokuta is just waiting to catapult us into the industrial era. Nigeria is not industrialised because virtually in the production of simple implements, complicated tools, vehicles, and aircraft parts you need steel.
“We have not been able to manufacture those things because we do not have steel. We need to produce liquid steel which can now be manipulated into many other things. Once you produce liquid steel, you can do anything you want with it, you can alloy it – that is add some metals because you want to have some benefits from that alloy. You can change it to flat sheets, which of course goes to form other shapes, and then you can start making body parts for cars. That is why everybody is excited about it.” Adegbite disclosed that work had been going on between Nigerian experts and their Russian counterparts with a view to coming up with a mutually beneficial agreement between the two parties.
He said: “A lot of works have been going on. It is not something we can go to the public about. We have set up some local bodies in the ministry with experts from Ajaokuta itself, the ministry, and some people outside who have knowledge about Ajaokuta, including former staff. They have been working. We have been exchanging correspondences, technical details, local contents, and all that.
“There is a meeting that is coming up in Cairo, and the Russians and the Nigerian team will meet there. This meeting is to crystallise everything and then we go into the memorandum of understanding (MoU). Once this is done, we will move faster.”