By Adedapo Adesanya
The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, has assured that the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited will commence operations to capacity soon.
Mr Adegbite gave this assurance during the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja, stating that efforts are being made to ensure the factory functions before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, which is less than two years from now, precisely on May 29, 2023.
He said that the federal government had made effort to ensure that the Russian company that built the steel industry would come to Nigeria to conduct a technical audit of the company.
The Minister said that the Russian team would have been in Nigeria since 2020 for the technical audit but the COVID-19 pandemic distorted the plan.
This, he said, was part of intense efforts being applied by the FG as the minister had earlier said that a 60-man team from Russia would arrive in Nigeria to start a technical audit of Ajaokuta steel.
The agreement on how to revive the steel company was reached during a meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and President Vladimir Putin in Russia in 2019.
The Russian government had nominated TPE, the original builder of Ajaokuta Steel Company, to conduct the audit of the steel company to ascertain the level of work remaining to be completed on the steel company.
However, the Minister said that the main purpose of the steel company when it was conceived and built was to produce liquid steel, adding that the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) was set up at Itakpe in Kogi State to feed it with iron ore.
He explained that liquid steel would help drive the country’s dependence away from oil as it could be used for building aeroplanes and car engine parts, among others.
“Ajaokuta Steel Company has not been able to produce liquid steel since it was built –the little hurdles we need to address.
“The steel company has worked in the past whereby billet was imported to produce reinforcement but that was not what Ajaokuta steel was built for,” he said.
Mr Adegbite also said that the ministry had recently trained some youths in the metal sub-sector on national development to ensure human capital development with special emphasis on vibrant metals operators.
He said that the workshop was an appropriate strategy meant to launch and mainstream youths into the sector, adding that the three weeks intensive workshop was to work towards the development of the sector.