Ajaokuta (Kogi), March 1, 2017 (TNE):.The Federal Government established the Ajaokuta Steel Company in Ajaokuta Local Government Council area of Kogi in 1979, as an offshoot of the dissolved Nigeria Steel Development Authority.
It is located on 800 hectares of land that stretches to the bank of River Niger.
According to facts obtained from the company, it was originally designed to produce liquid steel in an integrated manner and was to be executed in three phases.
The first phase was to produce 1.4 million tonnes of liquid yearly, phase two, 2.5 million tonnes, and phase 3, 5.2 million tonnes per annum, bringing the total production capacity to about 10 million tonnes.
The construction of some units under the first phase started in 1981 and was taken to 98 per cent stage .
Its technology is based on the age-long rugged steel making tradition of blast furnace, that is, basic oxygen furnace and it is being developed on backward integration system.
This technology places the plant on the same pedestal in countries like Russia and Iran that are known globally for their exploits in steel production.
The completed units among which are the light mill section, the billet mill, rolling mills wire rod mill, the wintering plant, iron making plant, steel making and continuous casting plants and a 100 megawatts thermal power plant, among others, were put into operation in 1983.
The company operated under different public and private managements until 2008 when it finally stopped operation as a result of a dispute arising from a concession arrangement between the Federal Government and Messrs Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited .
It is instructive that the company at that time, was still at the 98 per cent completion stage achieved under phase one while the other two phases are yet to take off.
Currently, the plant has 185,000 tonnes of installed equipment, 226,000 tonnes of steel structure ,325, 000 tonnes of pipes, insulators etc, 44,000 tonnes of refractory works, 1.9 million metre cube concrete works and 43 different industrial plants.
By 2008, government had already spent 4.66 billion dollars on the plant while it requires another 1.2 billion dollars to complete the first phase.
However, two technical audit carried out on the steel plant between 2000 and 2012 by TPE of Russia and REPROM of Ukraine confirmed that the equipment and other facilities in the company are largely intact and in good condition.
The importance of the plant to national economy cannot be overemphasised, especially in the area of job creation. Although , it currently has 2,930 workers on its payroll, the Sole Administrator, Mr Joseph Isah says it can generate more than 500,000 jobs across the country.
It can also assist Nigeria to preserve foreign exchange and when completed, can manufacture some motor parts, nuts and bolts being imported.
The plant can also help to close the gap that exists between its production and consumption of steel products .
At present, Nigeria produces between 100,000 and 300,000 tonnes of steel yearly while its consumption stands at about 20 million tonnes per annum.
Having spent so much on the plant, there is the need to urgently reassess the company with regard to its value addition technologically. Steel is needed in every sector of the economy, both in the public and in the private sectors.
Consideration should also be given to public-private-partnership, locally and globally, as long as it will no more be business as usual, by blocking the drain pipes of corruption that has perennially been associated with the industry. (TNE)