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Academy urges steel sector resuscitation


[[FILE] Ajaokuta steel

The Nigerian Academy of Engineers (NAE) has warned that unless government takes drastic action, to resuscitate the Ajaokuta Steel Company and other mills, Nigeria’s industrialization may become a mirage.

They advised the Federal government to take immediate action on appropriate technology choice, appraisal of the financial implication, long term supply and availability of adequate quality coking coal from both domestic and international suppliers for the revival of the 40-years moribund firm.

Such action according to them, would help in producing high quality iron bars, steel and aluminum needed for construction of buildings that will stand the test of time and stall the malaise of building collapse as well as improve job creation and nation’s self-reliance.

These positions were highlighted at a forum organised by the NAE and attended top engineers in the country, representatives of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the media, and executives of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.

Leading the call, a professor from the department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Lagos, David Aderibigbe revealed that the outcome of such action, would determine whether the Ajaokuta steel project can be completed as conceived initially through the Coke Oven, Blast Furnace, Basic Oxygen Furnace (BF/BOF) or through the Nigerian proven Direct Reduction and Electric Arc Furnace (DR/EAF) route.

He said there was the need for evaluation of the benefit/cost analysis in the technology choice of replacing the uncompleted blast furnace process with a direct reduction process, for instance, the Midrex process that Nigerians are already used to at Delta Steel Company which will utilise the locally available natural gas, iron ore and electric power at no burden to our foreign exchange reserve.

Prof. Aderibigbe believed that once Ajaokuta Steel starts operation, it has the ability to generate 500,000 direct and indirect jobs, which will take care of the job deficit that can contribute to visible growth and human capacity building in the economy. The sustainable operation of the iron and steel industry, he disclosed, has a lot of linkages to economic growth in other sectors of the economy, like agriculture, defense, power, transportation, mining, oil and gas, education, manufacturing, communications among others.

Aderibigbe whose presentation centres on, “The way forward for the iron and steel industry in Nigeria”, emphasized that determination of the current and potential future market in terms of demand and supply for steel products in Nigeria will guide the decision on how fast and in what sequence the flat steel project should come on stream in Nigeria.

He said there is need to reappraise the bilateral agreement between Nigeria and China to ensure that the steel rail tracks are sourced from Ajaokuta. This will stimulate the expected economic growth In Nigeria, according to him.

“Instead of keeping the iron and steel industry in China busy by producing steel rail products for our railway development, the bilateral agreement between Nigeria and China should ensure that most of the steel requirements are sourced from within Nigeria.

“The sustainable operation of the iron and steel industry in Nigeria has a lot of linkages to economic growth in other sectors of the economy, for example, agriculture, defense, power, transportation, mining, oil and gas, education, manufacturing, communications, among others”.

He observed that the key issues in the renewed effort at ensuring that Ajaokuta Steel Complex contributes to the necessary industrial base in the short run should be at maximizing the utilization of the plants and facilities that are already commissioned in the complex while five separate privatized companies should be established, viz; Ajaokuta Rolling Mills, Ajaokuta Engineering Works, Ajaokuta Thermal Power Plant, Ajaokuta Refractory and lime, Ajaokuta Estate and Management.

For him, Nigeria’s economic growth is contingent upon the growth of the steel industry as consumption of steel is taken to be an indicator of economic development. He stressed that to industrialize, there is the need to have a sound industrial base anchored on technological self-reliance.

“The major feedstock of iron ore, natural gas and electricity supply exist locally and can be made readily available in Ajaokuta. This is one of the practical decisions the Nigerian Government can take to ensure sustainable operation of the Ajaokuta project. In many developed countries the expansion of the railway network is tied to the expansion in their iron and steel industry”.

On his part, a professor of metallurgical and mineral engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), John Ade-Ajayi who spoke on “Sustainable solid minerals development and value addition chain: Quo vadis Nigeria”, called for government, academia, and industry value-driven synergy engendered by transformational leadership as panacea for technological advancement, rapid industrialization and economic development. This, he noted, will also promote sustainable solid mineral resources development paradigm for Nigeria.

Speaking on the objective of the forum, President of NAE, Prof. Fola Lasisi explained that in line with its core mandate the academy exists to provide input and leadership in national technological issues and policies through contributions to science and engineering stressing that it has to look for ways to reverse the obvious setbacks of solid minerals development in Nigeria.

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