…Says $400m needed to complete project
Osdarline Onwuemeny 15 June 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Nigeria needs to confront foreign and local interests working against the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel project, Sole Administrator of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, ASCL, Mr. Joseph Onobere, has said.
Work on the Ajaokuta Steel project commenced in 1979, and nearly four decades later and after gulping about $4.6 billion, the project remains stalled.
Onobere said ASCL was facing imminent collapse unless the Federal Government moved quickly to confront the foreign and local interests working against its completion.
The sole administrator, who spoke in Ajaokuta, Kogi State, did not give details of the interests working against the project, but warned that should the project collapse finally, Nigeria might never be in a position to build another steel plant.
“Successive governments have been paying lip service to the project and, painfully, leave it the way they met it,” he said, adding that the project had remained at the stage where it was abandoned by the Russians in 1994.
Onobere said that only $400 million was required to complete the project which the country had already spent $4.6 billion.
He said: “The project is 98 per cent completed and the problem is not within Ajaokuta itself but external infrastructure. Since 1994 when the plant was abandoned, nothing has been done.”
As at 1994 when ASCL was abandoned, Onobere explained that 40 units out of the 43 units of the integrated steel plant were 100 per cent completed.
He explained: “The main reason why the plant could not be inaugurated in 1994 was just the logistics that would be involved in the supply of imported raw materials, especially, the coking coal. The rail bridge for the company was completed in 1983 by the Shehu Shagari-led administration, this ought to have been the costliest aspect of the plant.
“Between 1983 and today, not one metre has been added. After getting to that percentage of completion, the plant could not be inaugurated then because there was no way to bring the coking coal. That has been the main factor for 24 years and nothing has been done in that respect.”
However, he said that the present administration had been taken steps to do something about the steel plant.
According to him, the gang up against the project has been so enormous but the luck Nigeria has is the type of dedicated and patriotic staff working in the company.
Onobere said: “Otherwise, there would have been no place like Ajaokuta Steel Company anymore. All the steel plants are built on top of water because their water requirements are very much.”
He also described the equipment and other facilities at the plant as very durable but can deteriorate over time.
The sole administrator further said: “So, in essence, for us to inaugurate this plant to produce liquid steel, the rail line must be inaugurated to service the plant. This has been the situation and up till now, the way forward has not been finalised.”