Experts decry monumental losses at Ajaokuta steel company
EXPERTS in metallurgy and materials science have decried the rate of asset depreciation at Ajaokuta Steel Company stressing that after 32 years of inactivity, Nigeria continues to suffer monumental losses from the multi-billion dollar investment.
They pointed out that though genuine privatisation is the best option to turnaround the investment, the plant must first be reactivated.
Some of the experts who spoke to The Guardian noted that being a steel conglomerate comprising an engineering section, foundry, iron making and structural mills, the losses being incurred by the nation at Ajaokuta Steel Company “is too much, more than what could be easily estimated in just monetary terms.”
Head of Metallurgical Department, Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, Afikpo, Joseph Okani, an engineer, said it is not enough to try to quantify the losses at the steel company merely in naira or dollar equivalent, pointing out that high level manpower that were trained overseas at Russia, Bulgaria and India have been lost.
He also added that equipment worth millions of dollars were bought, installed at very high cost, pointing out that constructions were made for section mills like drill mill, billet mill, which he said, “were already established before they parked up before so many others.”
On the feasible way forward for the steel company that was commissioned in 1983 by the Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration, Okani said since privatisation is the preferred choice now, the Federal Government should do this in a transparent way, regretting however that, “nobody could agree to buy the company in its present state because of the decayed infrastructures.”
He added: “The privatisation exercises earlier carried out was a sham to rip off the Nigeria government. What the incoming administration should do is to take time and revitalize areas that are of crucial importance like the rolling mills and make sure they are in order before sell it.
“I will advise the Federal Government to re-engineer the place and sell it to the proper people. Not the type that was done where they select their cronies to come and steal what was remaining there. If it is sold to proper companies or well-established steel companies all over the world, it could keep the Nigerian economy in the right shape. The investment is so high, therefore it should not allowed to rot. It would be a monumental loss to the detriment of future generations.”
“It is necessary that the company is privatised so that the buyers will come with their own staff and management,” he stated, adding that the issue of international conspiracy is baseless, because, according to him, investors are ready to invest in lucrative ventures anywhere in the world.
But environmental rights activist, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, rejected the privatisation option, saying that before privatizing the outfit, the enabling law should first be repealed since the land was acquired for public use.
“Nothing new is coming from the incoming administration; they are not going to rediscover Nigeria. Has the President-elect raised his economic team or met with all those elected on his party platform to signpost the kind of economic blueprint they intend to pursue? Since it would take much to rehabilitate the place after service parts were carted away by the foreign concessionaires, Ajaokuta Steel Company has hit the point of no return,” Okonkwo declared.
A lecturer in the Department of Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Uzoma Okoro, told The Guardian that given the common adage that countries that win the war are those that have rich iron ore deposits and are able to harness them into steel, Nigeria was witnessing a colossal waste through Ajaokuta Steel Company.