After several attempts at turning around the duo of Ajaokuta Steel Company and the National Iron Ore Mining Company, both in Kogi state, the Federal Government is again working on a comprehensive blueprint for their completion and rehabilitation.
Previous efforts at revamping them via privatisation have failed and they have reverted back to state ownership.
The desire to bring the two companies to life is in line with the efforts of the government at diversifying the economy.
Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Kayode Fayemi, stated on Monday after a fact finding inspection tour of facilities of the two companies that government’s position had become imperative due to dwindling fortunes of the oil sector..
He said that government would come up with realistic decision that would enable it turn the steel sector into a viable sector and foundation for future industrialisation of the country.
Fayemi, who was accompanied on the tour by the Minister of state in the ministry, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa, said that government had obtained necessary information and facts about the two companies from relevant stakeholders.
The tour, he explained, was to confirm the information and facts at the disposal of government.
“Our mission is to ensure that this plant works. The methodology to achieve this will be informed by what we see on ground and facts at our disposal.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has not formed an impression yet; he is looking at many ways before taking a decision on the basis of our findings and reports to him,” he said.
The minister said that government was looking at and studying the experiences of steel producing countries to chart a way forward.
“We are studying how these countries succeeded in building several plants many years after we have started our own.
“What did they do right and what we did wrong to find ourselves at the present situation.
“The plant will work, President Buhari is very passionate about it,” Fayemi said.
At Ajaokuta, Fayemi, Bawa and other top officials of the ministry were conducted round the light mill, forge and fabrication and boas furnace section among others
Joseph Ononere, Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd., listed four options on the best way out for the company and how the government could lay solid foundation for the country’s economic development.
He urged the government to call for expression of interest from experts for the rehabilitation, completion and commissioning of the steel plant to avoid further deterioration of equipment and other facilities.
At NIOMCO in Itakpe, the Sole Administrator, Alhaji Yau Ibrahim, solicited the support of the minister in the completion of some ongoing projects which he said were critical to the survival of the plant.
He also complained of paucity of funds which he said, had led to the company from being disconnected from the national grid since Sept. 2014.
Ibrahim also stressed the need for the Federal Government to bring the case involving Ajaokuta Steel Company and NIOMCO at the Industrial Court of Arbitration in London to early conclusion.
He said that the steel sector was still largely untapped.
He said that iron ore deposit at Itakpe is about 197 million tons and sufficient to support production of steel at Ajaokuta Steel Company for a period of 35 years.
“Beside the iron ore deposits at Itakpe, there is also a proven iron ore reserve of about 60 million tons at a location known as Ajabanoko which is only six kilometers away from Itakpe and other iron resources at different stages of exploration, ‘’ he said.