The Minister of Steel Development, Shuaibu Abubakar-Audu, has revealed the federal government’s plan to make the Ajaokuta environ a free trade zone to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and to diversify the economy.
Mr Audu disclosed this at his maiden visit to the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCOL) on Wednesday, as he took a tour of the complex.
He also pledged his commitment to ensure the production of steel from the multi-billion-dollar investment project of the federal government under a three-year plan.
The minister was accompanied on the trip by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mary Ogbe, staff of the ministry, and some foreign investors.
Mr Audu said that the visit was aimed at getting first-hand knowledge of the problems stopping production in the company in a bid to proffer solutions.
He said that President Bola Tinubu had also taken interest in the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Complex by appointing him as the pioneer minister to show the world the importance of steel development to industrialisation.
He further stated that Ajaokuta Steel Company, if got right, would create over 500,000 jobs which would be enough to lift Nigerians out of poverty.
“We want to thank President Bola Tinubu for having the vision to create a Steel Development Ministry.
“Over the past 40 years, we had the largest Steel Plant in Nigeria and one of the largest in West Africa which has not functioned.
“But the President knows that in order to industrialise Nigeria, we have to get the steel industry working,” he said.
According to him, in line with the key point agenda of ‘Renewed Hope’ of Mr Tinubu, some of the key elements are job creation, diversification of the economy and attracting foreign direct investment.
“If we are able to revitalise Ajaokuta, it will help us achieve this. This key point agenda will also help us eradicate poverty.
“To achieve this, we have put together two documents. A three-year plan for the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company which will have a small and medium-term plan.
“Part of the things is the roadmap to designate the 24,000 hectares land of Ajaokuta an Industrial Park, to create a Free Trade Zone that will further attract foreign direct investment,” he said.
We have the Russians, Americans, Arabs and Chinese who are showing interest. They have come to show their desire to carry out an advanced technical audit to see what needs to be completed.
Resolving production challenges
He said that his job is to ensure that all those typical issues that held the plant from producing are resolved.
“And by the first term of this administration, if we are able to produce some sheet of steel, it will be a significant achievement.
“I have taken an extensive tour of the complex and plants, and there are lots of opportunities that if we are able to unlock, we will be able to create over 500,000 jobs, which will benefit Kogites a bit more importantly, and Nigerians.
“This will also guarantee that everyone benefits from the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,” Mr Audu said.
Mr Audu said that he was on the tour with potential foreign investors and experts who have shown interest in bringing FDI to unlock these potentials.
Different investors given different components also worked in resuscitating moribund steel plants in other countries.
The minister said that the investors will carry out an advanced technical audit of the steel complex and its facilities to see what more is to be done.
“I am being accompanied here today by investors who are ready to put their expertise to ensure that this steel company works.
“We have the Russians, Americans, Arabs and Chinese who are showing interest. They have come to show their desire to carry out an advanced technical audit to see what needs to be completed.
“After my findings from here, we will forward everything to Mr President for his approval,” Mr Audu said.
Mr Audu said that in addition to the three-year plan, there was a five-year plan which would also see to ensuring the production of steel in other parts of the country.
Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, the Sole Administration and Chief Executive Officer, thanked Mr President for reviving the hope of Nigerians by making Ajaokuta a priority again.
Mr Abdul-Akaba also commended Mr Audu for his great vision and plans in reviving the company, noting that Ajaokuta is a land of vast opportunities.
“Unlike the thinking of so many people, Ajaokuta is not obsolete but only requires the right attention to get the multi-billion dollar running.
“All we have to do as staff is to join hands with the visions of the President and also key into the plans of the Minister,” Abdul-Alkaba said.
Jalil Hkoodshoev, a foreign investor from Novostal-M Company in Russia, lauded the initiatives of Mr President in reviving the company.
Mr Hkoodshoev noted that with what they had seen on ground, they were very interested in investing in the company.
He added that the resuscitation of the company would have a big impact, not only on Nigeria, but the entire West Africa, and the African region in general.
“I assisted His Excellency with this trip to Ajaokuta, I am mesmerised about the size of the plant. It is amazing and I think that the initiatives that have been taken by His Excellency, the President of Nigeria will have a big impact not only for Nigeria but all the sub-region and all of Africa.
“I hope that in the next couple of years, we can participate also as partners of the government for this project, and for the steel business,” Mr Hkoodshoev said. (NAN)