The Ajaokuta integrated steel complex was envisioned to serve as the “Bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization. It consists of a Metallurgical Processing Plant and Engineering Complex with other auxiliaries and facilities required to process iron from its ore through the entire value chain to the downstream products required to feed the manufacturing industry of Nigeria and even beyond. Despite over two decades of abandonment, the complex still boast of state of the art townships, roads, bridges, power plants, air strip and standard rail tracks among many other facilities.
TyazhPromoExport (TPE) is the Russian company that designed and built the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) up to 98 per cent as at October 1993 through an effort that engaged over 1000 Russian experts and 3,500 Nigerian without considering suppliers and employees of companies that sprang up to provide services to the construction company. The famous Russian company, who had built a reputation in constructing mining and mineral processing plants around the world, especially in iron and steel plants, pulled out of the project in 1994 following the inability of Nigerian government to fulfill their obligations on the project.
In 2002, the administration of President Obasanjo invited TPE back to carry out an assessment audit of the project and present a report on what is required to complete and get it running. It was gathered that an ill-constituted team, devoid of technical experts such as metallurgist and mineral processing engineers, through the request of the World Bank who was to fund the project, conducted a feasibility study on the project and rated it not viable.
In 2003, the administration of President Obasanjo erred by handing over the project to SolGas, a company that specializes in downstream petroleum with no clue whatsoever on engineering and mineral processing. The concession that lasted for less than two year was terminated when it became obvious the company could not add any value to ASCL.
The project was thereafter conceded to an Indian firm, Global Steel Holding Limited (GSHL) who recorded no achievement on the project other than series of baptism and rebranding that saw its name changed from ISPAT to Global Infrastructure Holding Limited and the current Global Steel Holding Limited. GSHL got the ASCL project at a paltry $300 million. The company was not required to make any payment to the government but instead got some unreasonable deals that nearly mortgaged Nigeria. GSHL tear-down some important part of ASCL and have removed important components and machineries from the complex to other Indian firm owned projects in other part of Nigeria.
The late President Yar’ adua realized the deal that conceded ASCL to GSHL was a huge scam and initiated the termination of the contract, a development that resulted in legal battle that went as far as to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in London, UK. President Yar’ adua also resumed discussion with the original builder of ASCL but he passed away and his successor, President Goodluck Jonathan, did nothing to advance the project.
Since the inception of President Buhari’s regime, he has been very clear on his commitment to complete Ajaokuta Steel Company and get it running as part of his economic diversification options, a commitment that is strongly supported by the Hon. Minister of Solid Mineral and Steels Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who also realizes the importance of steel as critical to industrial growth of any nation.
As expected from anyone who really meant well for the project, the most viable option to consider towards its completion would be to hand it back to the original builder who conducted the architectural and engineering design and built it to 98 per cent completion. In doing that, the Hon. Minister was erroneously informed that the company is no longer interested in operating the project.
Out of curiosity, I researched into what could have made TPE, the original builder of ASCL to turn their back on a project that was their brain child. But in addition to confirmation that they have always been willing and ever ready to return to Nigeria to complete Ajaokuta Steel Complex, TyazhPromoExport, the company that initiated, designed and executed Ajaokuta Steel Complex to 98% completion has it conspicuously posted on their website, that they are willing to return to complete Ajaokuta steel plant. http://bit.ly/1T2PHTS
In addition to Ajaokuta Steel plant as a proof of their technical expertise, TPE had completed over fourty world class mines, steel and mineral Processing plants spread across the world. The fact that all of these mines and plants are functioning to the full capacity except for ASCL, which is located in Nigeria, raises a million questions.
To avoid repeating the mistakes of the previous administrations on Ajaokuta steel plant and further wastage of the scarce resources of the country, it is best for the government to handover the ASCL back to the original builder who has the architectural and engineering designs and had also demonstrated ability to complete and get the project up and running.
In addition to been the pride of President Buhari’s administration, if completed, ASCL will create jobs for the citizens, generate revenue for the government and spring up industrial revolution in Nigeria.
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