By Moses Nosike
One of the visions that Olamilekan Adegbite had when he was appointed the minister of Mines and Steel Development a year ago was to put the nation on the track of industrialization, which entailed developing the Steel sector. And for that to happen, Adegbite understood that he had to turn his attention to Ajaokuta Steel Complex and work for its revival. About three months after he was appointed minister, Adegbite embarked on a tour of Ajaokuta steel complex and was amazed at the facility he saw which was largely in good shape but was grounded. During the tour he commended the workers for maintaining the facilities in the steel complex, noting that most of the facilities were still functional, and as such over the years, the problems facing the company had not prevented the workers from receiving salaries.
“This place would have become a ghost town and you wouldn’t find anything anymore, the plants are here and they run them. There are a lot of dry runs and of course, they do a lot of maintenance work which we want to upgrade to manufacturing,” Adegbite said.
This was confirmed by the workers of the company, under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Mines Workers, who insisted that they were not idle as they had been working even though the steel mill had not been producing. Adegbite’s tour went a long way in boosting the morals of the workers. It was revealed that when he returned to Abuja, he immediately sought the president’s approval to revive the steel plant which he secured. In order to hasten action on the plant, he and the president later traveled to Russia to negotiate agreement on the rehabilitation of the steel complex.
Furthermore a presidential task force was formed chaired by the SGF to navigate the revival of the steel plant.
Responding on the Honourable Minister’s one year in office and his achievement, DG of NSRMEA, Engr. Umar Albarka Hassan said that the Minister’s one year performance is unprecedented because of the number of activities carried out and the successes recorded during the past one year.
According to Hassan, among these activities include the works on generation of reliable geo-sciences data long considered a big stumbling block to attracting financially and competent mining investors into the Nigerian Mining Sector. “Specifically, the ongoing NIMEP Exploration projects on Gold, Iron Ore, Lead-Zinc ores, Barite and Speciality metals associated with pegmatites have generated so much interest among international mining investors arising from presentations made at international mining fora. Reports of these works are being awaited with keen interest. This is in addition to the exploration works on bauxite, silica sand, manganese and chromite being carried out by the National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency, Kaduna towards sourcing of necessary raw materials for Ajaokuta Steel plant in particular and other local steel plants. Other activities carried out include facilitation of sustainable mine development and operations culminating into the development of the first large scale gold mine in Osun State by Thor Exploration as well as the commencement of formal ASM gold purchase schemes and refining through PAGMI and other private initiatives driven by Dukia Gold and Kian Smith for harnessing local gold production, refining and sale of refined gold bars to CBN towards building its gold reserve. This action has facilitated formal gold trading leading to improvement in royalty collection from gold dealers as well as stopping the exploitation of miners by gold trading syndicates”.
On things he has done to improve the steel sector, Hassan said that efforts being put towards completing Ajaokuta Steel Plant through the collaboration of the Nigerian and Russian Governments; the revision of the Metallurgical Bill aimed at producing an acceptable bill that would have a safe sail through FEC and the National Assembly resulting in providing the metal and steel sub-sector with the missing legal and regulatory framework needed to create a sustainable working environment; and the continued support for local sourcing of steel raw materials needed to guarantee local steel production in view of the logistics challenges associated with the importation of steel raw material as well as huge foreign exchange required to import such products including loss of jobs to foreign countries from where these raw materials would be imported from.
Stressing on the benefit that would accrue to the nation when Ajaokuta comes on stream, he said, “when Ajaokuta Steel Company comes on stream include the creation of about 600,000 direct and indirect jobs in addition to the conservation of foreign exchange that would have been used to import steel products which Ajaokuta Steel Plant would now produce. As a pointer, Nigeria imported about $730million worth of steel products in 2018. With Ajaokuta coming on stream and producing the imported products, this sum of foreign exchange would be saved in addition to jobs and wealth that would be created from activities associated with the production of needed steel products starting from the mines, steel plant, rolling mills that would use Ajaokuta Steel Plant Products as input, iron and steel products’ fabricators, food vendors, service providers amongst others. The nation would also be able to produce various categories of steel products needed to bring about fabrication of essential machineries and spare parts that can operate satisfactorily under normal operating conditions which has continued to be a challenge.
In addition, Country Manager, KCM/Kogi Iron, Alabi Samuel said that the Honourable Minister with his team, that is, HM of State, Permanent Secretary and the managements teams of all the MDAs under him had really re-energised the Federal Government set policies in promoting the Nigerian Extractive sector to both local and international standard.
He said that the HM and his teams had really supported all aspect of mining projects and not only the Steel sector. “He has made efforts in reviving Ajaokuta Steel Company and National Iron Ore Company; promoting and encouraging the up coming Iron ore and Steel projects like that of, KCM/KFE Ltd, African Industries Ltd etc., and more enabling policies are being role out for ease of business.
According to Samuel, it is a known fact that most of the developed nations of the world attained their industrialization growth through the establishment and function Steel industrial sector. It creates more job opportunities through chains of down stream activities, import products substitute; more income revenue generation earning; preservation of the nation’s external reserve; improvement on the online method of application for mining titles e.g, EL, ML, SSML, QL etc, through the Cadastral office, etc.
Commenting on the visit of the House of Representative Committee on Ajaokuta Steel Plant on August 10, 2020, on one year the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite has spent in office, Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta, Engr. Sumaila Akaba, said that one year in the life of a nation can be exciting when you have a focused, organized, efficient and supportive leadership. “The Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite is an embodiment of these attributes. His background as an Architect and a technocrat must have prepared him for this national assignment, but his personal zeal and commitment to national development must be his driving force. Within the over one year in office, the Honourable Minister has so far visited the Steel Plant three times, which shows his commitment to pull Ajaokuta out of the woods.
First, after the briefs we gave him upon assumption of duties as Minister, he took proactive steps of engaging stakeholders and thereafter developed a model that will be good and attractive for the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant and sought the understanding and buy-in of President Muhammadu Buhari. The result is the October, 2019 Sochi, Russia, historic agreement signed between President Muhammadu Buhari and President Vladimir Putin to resuscitate, modernize, complete and operate the Ajaokuta Steel Plant on the basis of government-to-government initiative through a funding arrangement with the Afreximbank and the Russian Export Centre.
Akaba said that this bilateral agreement was followed by the setting up of the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT) to kick start the processes of getting the Steel Plant to work again. “In fact this committee which the honourable minister as the co-chairman is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the government agreement signed in Russia. It has so far proceeded to achieve a lot towards realizing the set goal and as soon as the Covid- 19 measures are relaxed for international flights, the Russians are expected to come in for the technical audit of the steel plant which is the first phase of the project implementation”.
“In a nutshell, the one year plus of the minister has given life, hope and direction to the economic diversification efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government in the area of Steel development. As stated earlier, the key and most important imprint of the Honourable Minister towards ensuring that Ajaokuta gets rejuvenated is the Nigeria-Russia bilateral initiative on having the Russian original builders of the Steel Plant come back to have the plant completed. Having gotten the support of Mr. President, he also secured the support and buy-in of a cross section of the stakeholders in the industry, the State government, the National Assembly and above all the workers of the Company.
He said furthermore that in order to continue to add value to the good maintenance culture obtained in Ajaokuta Steel Plant, the minister has financially intervened in improving the Plant’s vast power facilities, water supply facilities and Security beef up of the Steel Plant. “Support for the day to day preservative maintenance of all the facilities of the Steel Plant to ensure they are readily available for completion and commissioning; Improved security through purchase of patrol vehicles, necessary security gadgets and involvement of relevant naval personnel and Nigeria civil defence personnel to wade off miscreants from the Steel plant and keep the environment relatively safe for investment; rehabilitation works at the Thermal Power Plant to generate at least 25 MW of Electricity for the National economy; rehabilitation of the Power Distribution and Transmission Facilities of the Steel Plant;Rehabilitation of Water and Gas facilities and common facilities for the deliveries of utilities which include water supply for industrial and domestic uses; rehabilitation and tooling of some essential equipment at Ajaokuta Steel Plant’s Engineering Workshops and rehabilitation of buildings, workshops and other facilities at Metallurgical Training Centre.
In addition, Adamu S.A Ajaokuta to Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel, prior to HM’s selection and forwarding the names of the members of current Ajaokuta Project Presidential Implementation Team to the presidency for the commissioning of Ajaokuta Steel plant, HM had already had a ministerial team that were carrying out preliminary end to end analysis of the entire steel production value chain necessary to ensure the long term operation and sustainability of not only Ajaokuta Steel Company, but also Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO). “Some of these activities include, end to end audit of all the raw materials needed in steel production; analysis of transportation logistics for raw material processing and also for finished product transportation for potential offtaker; a review of Processes, Policies and procedures in the 2 major Companies involved in the production of Steel (Ajaokuta Steel Company and Nigerian iron Ore company); as Alternate Chairman of APPIT, HM has created sub committees to Evaluate the current liabilities affecting Ajaokuta Steel Company; review the best approach, manner and also the best framework to execute this project but at the same time project our National Assets”.
According Adamu, HM has been at the forefront of engaging our sister ministries and agencies to both Ensure the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Plant (ASP) based on the original design and also to drive the presidencies economic diversification agenda.
Adamu said that the HM, personally led the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals,Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy, Majority leader, minority leader of the senate on a visit to both ASCL and NIOMCO.