The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, says workers are retained at the Ajaokuta Steel Company to protect the infrastructure from vandalism.
Mr Adegbite said this when he was featured at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
According to him, it is important to keep the place running.
He said the reason why successive governments could still talk about the company was because of the few workers keeping the place running.
“The steel territory where Ajaokuta sits is about three times bigger than the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“So, you can imagine an investment of that magnitude being left without people to maintain.
“If everybody is withdrawn from there, we would not be sitted here today talking about Ajaokuta because it will not exist anymore.
“You know who we are. If that place is left like that people will cannibalise the place and turn everything into scrap,” he said.
He said the plants were still functional, adding that at full production, the company was capable of employing more than 10,000 workers.
On whether or not the company had produced anything steel since its establishment in the 70s, Mr Adegbite said it had produced at a certain period.
He said, “Ajaokuta has actually produced at certain period.
“It is only that it has not produced liquid steel, which is the ultimate because it can be converted into any desired metal.
“Billets were being imported from abroad, so Ajaokuta has always functioned in one way or the other.
“So, all these years, a lot of investment has gone into training people toward steel production.
“People went on secondment while others were sent for first degree and Masters.
“So many people were trained in Russia because it was built by the Soviet Union in those days.”
The minister further said the workers, some of whom had retired had kept hope alive that Ajaokuta steel company would work.
He said, “these hands were kept together because we do not want to lose them”.
On argument as to whether or not the non-take-off of the company was because the “gods are angry,” the minister said the communities had been carried along over the years.
This gesture according to him is to show respect for the people and their culture. (NAN)