Over the years, successive governments had made efforts to resuscitate one of the biggest steel companies in Africa, but a reality check would reveal that such efforts have never yielded any tangible results as the company languished in fragrant abandonment for about four decades.
It appears that the more the past governments tried, the more the steel complex continued to rust away.
However, with the renewed commitment of the current government of Muhammadu Buhari, there is an elixir of hope that the steel company will work again.
In fact, the completion of the project is seen as strategic for industrialization, job creation and foreign exchange earnings.
Also, the steel plant, when completed, would equally increase the productive capacity of the nation through its linkages to other industrial sectors by providing materials for infrastructural development, technological acquisition, human capacity building, income distribution, regional development and employment generation.
Recently, the Federal government kicked off the long-awaited revival of the steel project with the inauguration of the implementation committee.
This followed the renewed interests by the Russian government, who are working with the Africa Import and Export Bank, to pool funds in excess of $1.4bn to revive the steel plants whose construction commenced over four decades ago.
While many well-meaning Nigerians have greeted the news of the revival of the Steel Company with resounding joy and happiness, because it promises to give Nigeria a unique opportunity to make the country West Africa’s largest fully integrated steel producers, pundits have also applauded the efforts of some notable lawmakers who have been giving legislative impetus to ensure that the company does not only have impeccable legislative footing but would equally operate in maximum capacity.
One of the lawmakers who has been synergising with all stakeholders to ensure a smooth take-off of the Ajaokuta steel plant, a company envisioned to be the “Bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialisation” is Dr Jibrin Isah Echocho, the Senator Representing Kogi-East.
In fact, since his election into the hallowed chamber, the vocal Senator has not rested his oars as he has been giving the legislative support necessary for the total revival of the steel complex.
Just recently, on the floor of the Upper Legislative Chamber, Senator Jibrin had urged the Federal Government to complete the Ajaokuta-Okaba-Otukpo rail line, as the coal deposit in Okaba is supposed to be a major source of power to the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
The Senator argued that if the Ajaokuta-Okaba-Oturkpo rail line was not completed, the dream of having an efficient and effective iron and steel complex in Ajaokuta will remain an exercise in futility, as there will be no sufficient energy to power the Steel Complex.
The Senator while recapitulating the benefits of resuscitating the steel complex also described the Federal Government Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team as “timely and laudable” which according to him, came at a time when the global oil price plummets at a geometric rate and when Nigerians were clamouring for diversification of the nation’s economy.
The versatile economist and ex-banker analysed the benefits derivable from the completion of Ajaokuta-Okaba-Oturkpo and Ajaokuta Steel Company in terms of backward and forward integrations.
The Senator was quoted to have said thus: “One area that I think we should hammer on and which will be of major benefit is backward and forward integration programmes that will come out of the reactivation of that Project.
“There is a major coal mine at Okaba and that coal is supposed to be a major source of energy to the Ajaokuta steel. So, in terms of backward integration, definitely, there will be a lot of activities at the coal mine and other supplies too to the Ajaokuta Steel.”
In terms of forward integration, Senator Jibrin argued that there will be a lot of bye-products from Ajaokuta Steel Company that will equally act as raw materials for various production purposes.
In addition to drumming legislative support for the completion of Ajaokuta Steel Complex, the vibrant Senator had in 2019, drawn the attention of Federal Government to the deplorable condition of federal roads in Kogi State.
In reaction to his “Urgent Need for Rehabilitation of Itobe – Ajaokuta Road” the Federal Government has swung into action by rehabilitating the road as it is a major route for commuters and motorists, in particular, from Southeast, part of North-central and Kogi East to Abuja and other parts of the North.
*Abdullahi Haruna is a public commentator