By Queen Esther Iroanusi
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Tanko Al-Makura, has mentioned lack of funding and bureaucracy as the reasons stalling the takeoff of the Ajaokuta Steel Project.
He disclosed this to journalists Thursday after he presented his committee’s report to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
He said a special fund needs to be created to achieve the intention of the federal government to diversify the economy.
The Ajaokuta Steel Complex in Kogi State was envisaged to serve as the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialisation.
The steel complex had reportedly reached 98 per cent completion as far back as 1994 but no steel was produced after it was abandoned.
The eight Senate had passed a bill seeking $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to fund the completion of the plant but it was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president had said appropriating $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account is not ”the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints, and the nation cannot afford to commit such an amount amid competing priorities.”
Speaking with journalists, Mr Al-Makura described the Ajaokuta Steel Complex as a vibrant sector of the economy that had been left in deep slumber and that is the
“We have talked many times about the need to reactivate this company and I know as a fact, the president is very passionate to ensure that before he takes a bow, that Ajaokuta Steel Company will become very effective and drive the process of proper industrialisation in this country.
“But unfortunately, the funding is the greatest problem. Not only that, certain bureaucratic red-tapism within and around agencies, departments and ministries have stalled this most desired project.”
He, however, failed to mention the MDAs involved. He simply asked the MDAs to wake up and pursue this project with all the energy and focus it deserves.
“It is only then that we will be able to have confidence that the so much expected industrialisation of this country through the Ajaokuta Steel Company is achieved,” he said.
Earlier, during the presentation of the report, he appealed to the committee to make provision for a special fund to make the industrialisation and diversification drive of the present administration a reality.
“There appears to be some kind of stereotyping of the budget and if we really consider the need for economic growth and diversification which is very much sought for, there has to be some initiative in ensuring that the budget is a pragmatic budget.
“We found that the much desired growth in this sector may not be easily achievable without very special allocation to this ministry.
“For the past two years when the initiative was put forward to reactivate the company, there has not been any meaningful allocation to the company.
“With that, the much expected takeoff or reactivation of the company might not be made except when there is special fund. I will like to request the Chairman to look passionately into this request.”
The lawmaker also expressed optimism for the growth of the solid minerals industry – which he said is feasible with more funding.
“What is lacking is the funding,” he said. “There is no state that does not have one kind of solid mineral or another.”
“So the government should take into consideration the widespread presence of these minerals across the states and the funding should be in tandem with this multiplicity of opportunities across the states.”
A member of a the committee, Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), emphasised the need for the completion of the steel complex for the socio-economic development of the country.
As a nation coping with large number of unemployed people, this sector is very important. It is key, it will help the nation in terms of job creation and employment opportunities,” he said.
The chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, Jibrin Barau, said all hands must be on deck to make Ajaokuta work.
“We know a lot of money has been spent to bring about Ajaokuta and now it is in a state of decay, not utilised so it calls for the involvement of everybody to make sure we resuscitate that important complex.”
Many believe the Ajaokuta Steel Complex when completed, will have the capacity to produce major industrial machinery, auto-electrical spare-parts, as well as materials for ship building, railways and carriages.