The Federal Government recently inaugurated the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team aimed at realising the economic diversification agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, is the chairman of the team while the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, is the alternate chairman.
Inaugurating the committee, the SGF said it was the desire of the government to industrialise the country within a diversified economy.
He said, “The Ajaokuta Steel plant has languished in un-productivity for about four decades, and previous efforts at reviving it had proved abortive. This has resulted in avoidable massive foreign exchange losses at intolerable opportunity cost to the country.
“The pressing need to redress these avoidable challenges has necessitated this presidential intervention at this time. This is further underscored by difficulties being witnessed with present challenges in the global oil industry.”
The SGF said it was the focus of the administration to make Ajaokuta steel West Africa’s largest fully integrated steel producer and most importantly, to accelerate industrialisation in steel-related industries.
He added that the government placed a lot of value on the diversification of the economy, hence, the President’s participation at the Russia/Africa summit in Sochi, Russia, hosted by his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.
Mustapha pointed out that the Ajaokuta Steel Project would “be resuscitated on the basis of a Government-to-Government agreement with funding from the Afrexim bank and the Russian Export Centre.
No doubt, the foregoing is one of the cheering news for many Nigerians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which has dominated the media space over the past four months.
Ajaokuta steel company which holds the key to the nation’s economic prosperity has been allowed to lie idle for many decades.
Successive administrations had made empty pledges and promises about revitalizing the moribound company.
Designed with a three-phased commissioning sequence, its first phase targets 1.3million tonnes of steel per year, the second, 2.6 million, while the third is 5.2million.
It was learnt that by 1994, the steel plant had reached a technical level of 98 per cent completion.
One then wonders why successive governments have failed to complete the project and put it into full use given the economic benefits it holds for the people.
The company which sits on a large acre of land has the capacity of generating over 500,000 upstream and downstream jobs when fully operational.
It therefore behooves the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to do everything possible to ensure the revitalization of this company for the overall benefit of the country.
This, no doubt will be a golden opportunity for the federal government to diversify its economic mainstay from crude oil to the steel sector.
Nigerians have had enough promises and pledges about the revival of Ajaokuta which never came to reality.
We strongly pray and hope that this too will not turn out to be a dashed hope at the end of the day.
Ozovehe Bello writes from Mabushi, Abuja