The Federal Government of Nigeria is currently bracing for an all out steel war in a seeming bid to shore up the economy of the country. The Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has said that they are making effort to curb incessant dumping of substandard steel and other metals in the country.
Nigeria spends about N2.00 trillion on importation of steel annually, the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bawa Bwari, said in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, at the 2018 Steel Summit.
According to the minister, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was addressing the issue, as the ministry was remitting N3.00 billion through payment of royalty alone.
‘’It is in realisation of this that the government of President Buhari identified the steel industry as one of the key components of the Economic Diversification Agenda. The Nigerian economy expends about $4.5 billion on steel imports per year which could be saved if they can be produced locally’’, the minister said.
He said the administration had succeeded in making some inroads in assembling $600m investment fund for the sector, working with the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, the Nigerian Stock Exchange and other financial institutions.
‘’All these efforts at addressing the ease of doing business in Nigeria have led to improved ranking in sector specific assessment of our mining jurisdiction. However, they need to be consolidated by the private sector which should develop mineral value-chain activities on the mined mineral resources and leverage on the successes recorded in this sector so far.
‘’For instance, the establishment of smelting facilities will add value to the minerals and generate huge businesses with attractive financial benefits. Steel remains one of the most important technologies of the industrial revolution and the most valuable industry that any nation which hopes to break through the barriers of modern technology must establish’’, Bwari said.
This time around, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Abdulkadir Mua’azu, made the war plan known at the second Nigeria Metallurgical Industry Stakeholders Forum (MISF) in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
The theme of the forum was, Development of Nigeria’s Metal Sector – A Panacea for National Development and Imperative for Economic Diversification.
Mua’azu was represented by Zachius Atte, the Director, Reform Coordination and Service Improvement who according to him, the ministry is collaborating with the Nigeria Customs Service toward curbing incessant dumping of substandard steel from abroad in Nigeria, as well as export of banned scrap metals.
He said that the ministry had also articulated some strategies and activities for the development of the metallurgical sector with a view to taking it to the next level, adding that some of the strategies include recovery and re-operationalisation of Ajaokuta Steel Company, Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) And NIOMCO.
The permanent secretary said that the ministry will also build the confidence of private metallurgical plants operators in the country, among others, and that the ministry will ensure that President Buhari assent to the Nigerian Metallurgical Industry Bill when passed by the National Assembly.
While urging stakeholders at the forum to bring their experiences to bear as well as their natural comparative advantage toward rebuilding the sector, the Director, Metallurgical Inspectorate and Raw Materials Development, Victor Ihebinike, said that Nigeria metal sector was lagging behind other countries due to failure to reposition it.
Ihebinike said that failure to reposition the country’s metal sector in the past, made other countries that started metallurgical sector the same time with Nigeria to make tremendous progress, pointing out that South Korea, India, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt among others had been able to lift their economy from starvation into industrialised nations through consistent commitment and doggedness in pursuant of their objectives.
‘’We are self-centered and lack commitment; we visited some of the countries mentioned above to learn from them but we are still operating in our old ways’’, he said, insisting that political will should not be left out in order to move the sector forward.
Quoting official government data, he said that Nigerian economy with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 3.75.77 billion dollars was unarguably the largest in Africa, yet it spends about 3.3 billion on steel importation annually. ‘’Nigeria which is the Africa’s largest economy has 30 steel manufacturers but they can only produce 2.2 million tons a year using scraps and billets imported mainly from China.’’
He said the all-inclusive stakeholders forum organised by the ministry was to avail metal operators in the South-South and others, the opportunity to interface with the Federal Government to address all of these challenges.
Professor of Geology, University of Port Harcourt, Akaha Tse, said the strategy of the ministry to address the challenges of the sector was commendable, noting that it had taken steps to upgrade Geo-science data of minerals available in the country, adding that the right policies should be put in place and vigorously pursued for the sector to take its rightful place.