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Ajaokuta Steel Turn Around: Matters Arising

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The recent statement
from the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr Kayode Fayemi, about the decision of the present administration to revamp the Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd., is inspiring and promising.
Industrialists opine that the completion of the moribund plant will accelerate the desire of Nigeria to become one of the 20th economies of the world by 2020.
They recall that the idea behind a steel project in Nigeria started in 1958 when the colonial administration inaugurated a feasibility study on iron ore deposits in the country.
In 1967, a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation survey identified Nigeria as a potential steel market which led to the signing of a bilateral agreement between the defunct Soviet Union and Nigeria.
Further to this, in1971, an extra-ministerial agency — the Nigerian Steel Development Authority —was established by Decree No.9 to actualise the establishment of a steel plant in the country.
The actual work on the Ajaokuta Steel Company began in 1979 during the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and as at 1983 the work on the plant had reached 95 per cent completion.
In spite of this level of completion, the plant had suffered years of neglect under successive administrations.
Although former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s conceded the plant to Global System Steel Holdings Ltd., an Indian firm, the concession failed to revive the company.
The present status of the plant notwithstanding, Fayemi said that the Buhari’s administration was passionate about the completion of the steel project.
He spoke after a fact finding tour of facilities at the company and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), Itakpe, Kogi State, assuring the public that the Federal Government would soon unveil a comprehensive blueprint for the completion and rehabilitation of the two companies.
He said that the administration was taking a holistic look at the steel plant project to ensure its completion for the benefit of Nigerians.
“I want to let you know that the president is very passionate about the Ajaokuta Steel Company; we will take a look at the company holistically to make it work for the benefits of Nigerians.
“We are looking at the entire steel complex. We are not going to segment the plant. We are told that the captive power plant has been reactivated,’’ Fayemi said.
He said that government’s decision had become imperative due to dwindling fortunes of the oil sector.
According to him, the government will come up with realistic decision that will enable it to turn around as a foundation for future industrialisation of the country.
Fayemi said that government had obtained necessary information about the two companies from relevant stakeholders, noting that the facility tour was to authenticate the information.
The minister said that government was studying the experiences of steel producing countries to chart a way forward on Ajaokuta Steel Company.
“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 Buhati is very passionate about it,’’ he said.
Irrespective of the minister’s speech, Mr Joseph Ononere, the Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd., urged the government to call for expression of interest from experts for the rehabilitation, completion and inauguration of the steel plant.
He observed that no significant progress was made to turn around the fortunes of the company since 1994 when the Russians, being the original designers of the plant, pulled out of the project.
He pleaded with the Federal Government to ensure timely completion of the plant, saying that the minister’s visit after few months in office was a clear demonstration of government’s good intention to complete the project.
At Itakpe, NIOMCO Sole Administrator Yau Ibrahim solicited the support of the minister in the completion of some ongoing projects in the complex which he said were critical to the survival of the plant.
He 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 iron ore deposit at Itakpe was about 197 million tonnes which he observed would be sufficient to support production of steel at Ajaokuta Steel Company for 35 years.
“Beside the iron ore deposits at Itakpe, there is also iron ore reserve of about 60 million tonnes at Ajabanoko which is only six kilometres away from Itakpe,’’ he said.
Mr Bello Itopa, a representative of the Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, pleaded with the Federal Government to act fast in revamping the company.
He said that no nation could attain economic stability and real industrial and technological advancement without massive investment in the steel sector.
To revamp the company, Mr Sanusi Mohammed, Secretary-General, African Iron and Steel Association, observed that about 1.1 billion dollars would be required.
“If the fund is released, Ajaokuta rehabilitation can be completed within three years including the external infrastructure.
“If 300 million dollars could be released from the amount required, it could be used to rehabilitate part of the company for mini production to begin,’’ he said.
He noted that 43 smaller companies with different areas of specialisation were located in Ajaokuta complex.
“If government can invest 300 million dollars for a start on Ajaokuta Steel Company, at least 25 out the 43 companies will begin operations on materials for producing cars.
“Some will produce railway steel, flat sheet and bitumen, among others. The fund generated by these 25 companies could be used to complete Ajaokuta Steel Company,’’ he said.
He recalled that the challenges facing Nigerian steel companies could be traced to lack of political will and mismanagement by the past administrations.
But Fayemi insisted that the Federal Government would not allow “international conspiracies to hinder the revamping of Ajaokuta and other steel industries in Nigeria.
“I do not want to believe that Ajaokuta cannot be viable if money is spent on it.
“International conspiracy did not stop China from becoming steel giant and India from advancing its steel industry; nothing can stop the revamping of Nigeria steel industries.
“We are the architect of our own misfortune; no international conspiracy can stop a determined nation from realising its visions and objectives’’.
He said the amount quoted to revive Ajaokuta Steel Company was exorbitant that Nigeria would need financial support to be able to produce liquid steel and other steel products.
He also said that if Nigeria began the production of steel, it would reduce foreign exchange being spent on steel importation and also create jobs locally.
He insisted that the president had saddled his ministry with the responsibility of reviving the steel industries in the country.
All in all, industrialists plead with the current administration to incorporate the original designers of the plant in its renewed efforts to revamp the company.
According to them, if the present administration revamps the steel plant, it will boost the country’s revenue.

Adamu writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Sani Adamu

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NTVOA Promotes 24hr-Online Operations On Faulty Vehicles

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The National Towing Vehicles Owners Association (NTVOA) has commenced consultation with security agencies and stakeholders in the transport logistics chain system on the best way to respond promptly  to rescue articulated vehicles parked along major roads and highways nationwide through digitalisation .
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) affiliate association said plans are already afoot to introduce an app designed to respond swiftly to brokendown  vehicles in furtherance to ensure free flow of traffic.
NTVOA said it will test-run the app in  Lagos when completed  due to the predominant and peculiar nature of traffic, noting that the technological device would take the form of “Uber”
In a chat with the National Secretary of NTVOA, Comrade Sylvester Afonughe in Ogun State, he noted that the move would be an all inclusive app through which security agencies will also be alerted  in line with the technological innovation .
He said the operation when completed will encourage faster response to vehicles with technical hitches to be evacuated from the roads.
The scribe sad aggressive campaigns and sensitization mechanism would be put in place to enable stakeholders understand how to use the app upon completion.
Afonughe, an engineer and the Business Relationship Manager, Moniepoint, affirmed that: “It looks tasking, no doubt, but that is what we are looking at as a union because we have already commenced consultation for the website which will operate like Uber or O Pay in nature.
He said the union is also resolved to key into the automation system as part of efforts to address human contact and to promote seamless operations in modern day transport technology.
“We are looking at how we can improve on our operations because it is what I single-handedly initiated under the stable of my organization, then the national can take it up from there.
“So many factors are also considered in this project because we are looking at 24 hours online real time operations because we cannot rule out night activities.

“Security is key here so these are the things we are looking at because we need to carry security agencies along because security must not be compromises when we kick start this project.

By; Nkemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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NIWA Provides Waterways Ambulance For Search, Rescue

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The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has introduced a new ambulance boat to serve the Lagos waters.
Disclosing this in a statement made available to our correspondent in lagos, NIWA said “The decision to introduce the new ambulance was in response to critical empowerment of the search and rescue team in Lagos, and as strategic fulfilment to suggestions made by the cream of maritime media at a recent parley with the Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu .
“Dr. Moghalu noted that the new craft fitted with amber lights and two 175 Horse Power engines by Yamaha, with cream colour leather interior, fitted with medical equipment, first aid boxes, communication system and stretchers, will form the fulcrum rapid response to accidents on Lagos waterways.
“Rugged and built to  ferry accident victims and those who require immediate medical attention to the nearest hospital and Medical Hold Bay, the ambulance watercraft can travel at controlled timing without fear or anxieties of being buffeted by high impact waves”, it stated.

By: Nkemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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CBN Raises Savings Interest To 4.2%

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Bank customers in the country are now to be paid more interest on their savings after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) reviewed upward minimum interest payable to 30 per cent of the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR).
At its last meeting in July, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBN had raised MPR to 14 per cent due to the persistent rise in inflation rate in the country.
The upward review of interest on savings was stated in a circular signed by the CBN Director, Banking Supervision, Haruna Mustafa, and issued to all banks dated August 15, 2022.
With the new circular, banks are expected to increase interest rate on savings from 10 per cent of MPR to 30 per cent of MPR with effect from August 1, 2022.
Consequently, bank customers can now earn up to 4.2 per cent, which is 30 per cent of the 14 per cent MPR as against 1.4 per cent, which was 10 per cent of the MPR.
According to The Tide’s source, the circular states in part:  “It will be recalled that as part of the efforts to ameliorate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria reduced the minimum interest rates payable on local currency savings deposits from 30 per cent to 10 per cent of the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR).
“This was aimed at stimulating growth in the larger economy following the economic slowdown occasioned by the pandemic.
“However, following the return to full normalcy and considering the prevailing macroeconomic conditions, it has become necessary to effect an upward adjustment of the interest rate payable on local currency savings deposits.
“Accordingly, effective August 1, 2022, the negotiable minimum interest rate on local currency savings deposits shall be 30 per cent of MPR. This supersedes our letter dated September 1, 2020, referenced BSD/DIR/GEN/LAB/13/052 on the subject.”

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