If Nigeria is able to bring back the Ajaokuta S teel Industry, the country will be saving at least $3.5 billion spent on importation of steel products, annually, so said the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Addressing newsmen, after a meeting with stakeholders in the mining sector in Lagos, on Saturday, he stated that the final process of having the complex back on stream would be through in September 2017, when the expression of interests by investors for the Ajaokuta Steel Complex is billed to be completed.
He said: “In Nigeria, we utilise about seven million metric tonnes of steel on an annual basis; we produce less than three million from scrap metal, and even the scrap is being depleted now.
“So, we run the risk of depending almost solely on importation. We spend over $3.5bn importing steel products into Nigeria annually. So, you can see the opportunity cost and the importance of ensuring that Ajaokuta Steel comes on stream.”
“Government is determined to ensure that the litigation around Ajaokuta Steel would be resolved, to enable those with the technical knowledge and financial capacity to intervene and bring the industry back to life.
“Our expectation is that liquid steel can be produced from our own iron ore endowment and then be made available to rolling mills across Nigeria for direct steel production.”
“The timeline for the expression of interest is going to happen within the next six months, as we have already had a number of players, both local and foreign, that have shown interest; they come to us independently and unsolicited saying, ‘Look, we want to do this’”.
He confirned that the Federal Government had would sell the Ajaokuta Steel Complex to a private sector operator with the capacity to turn around the fortunes of the beleaguered company.
Reports say the stakeholders’ meeting was part of the ongoing moves aimed at persuading a Russian-based company which in alliance with some Nigerians with interests in the sector emerged the preferred bidder in the privatisation programme in 2010.
The firm has not been able lift the steel company from its comatose state it found itself since 2004 when government planned to rescurcitate the moribund complex.