A metallurgist, Dr Toyin Jegede, has urged the Federal Government to take urgent actions against past wrong business proposals to turn around Ajaokuta Steel Company for Nigeria’s rapid industrialisation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari, recently withheld assent to the Ajaokuta Steel Company Bill.
Jegede told NAN in Lagos on Monday that the steel company had the potential to create millions of jobs to tackle the socioeconomic crisis in the nation because of the viability of the iron and steel industry globally.
She explained that President Buhari refused assent to the bill because of the current economic crisis but called for political will on the part of government to resolve issues of corruption in previous trade agreements that had kept the firm under developed.
She appealed to the government to create policies that would favour the regeneration of the industry as well as an enabling environment to create confidence for the private sector to inject funds into the project again.
“Apart from injecting funds into the project, we also need experts, it is not as if Nigerian experts cannot do the project but we need those who are actively involved in the industry, a lot of the staff of the Ajaokuta Steel Company have not worked for a long time so they might not be in tune with what is globally trending in that sector.
“So we need people to inject funds and invest into the project; government should review our policies to enable the industry and then Public Private Partnership to get the project going,” she said.
She said that previous government efforts to revive the industry had been ridden in various controversies and political interference which the Buhari administration must address.
“Enabling environment for PPP should not be treated like a normal national project, we have to back this Ajaokuta issue with right policies, framework and legalities in place to make it difficult for politicians to manipulate things,” she said.
She added that political interference would be minimal with the right transparent policies on ground, so that Nigeria could take its pride of place in comity of nations, through harnessing opportunities in its huge steel sector.
“We need the political will to create these policies that will favor that industry, the industry needs to be strictly regulated,” she told NAN.
Jegede, a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, explained that the steel industry was a huge revenue platform, adding that consequences of not properly harnessing it were numerous.
“The implications of not assenting to this bill are very numerous; first and foremost, we are denying ourselves the opportunity of tapping into the enormous market of the steel industry.
“Secondly, if that project had been successful, it would have created employment capacity for the country because it is a large project and it is such a shame that the government lacks the will power to salvage it.
“It would have created direct and indirect job opportunities, also it would have aided our manufacturing sector and to kick start the industrialisation goals of the country.
“The government did not think of it well, that project is something that should have been pursued to conclusion,” she said.
She also appealed to the federal government to work with technocrats and metallurgical engineers to fashion out ways for development of the iron and steel industry.