Thursday, August 18, 2016 8:05 pm
Members of the Association of Artisans and Small Scale Steel Fabricators of Nigeria (AASSSFN) have lauded the new agreement entered into between the Federal Government and Global Steel Holdings Limited (GSHL) on the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) Itakpe, saying it would lead to the eventual resuscitation and operation of Ajaokuta, Delta and other smaller steel companies in the country.
Speaking to newsmen after their meeting in Abuja on Thursday, the National President of the Association, Gilbert Akwarandu Udenkwo regretted that the Federal Government under former president Umaru Musa YarÁdua unilaterally terminated the concessions granted Global Steel by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, saying that the termination was responsible for the years the country had lost in its quest to become one of the leading steel making nations in the world.
“All the steel companies in Nigeria were completely down for many years before Obasanjo decided to give them out to Global Steel to operate. Ajaokuta was prostrate and without any meaningful activities from June 1993, same with Delta Steel and NIOMCO. After Obasanjo visited Ajaokuta and saw how terrible the situation was, he decided that the steel companies are better managed by private investors. He first gave Ajaokuta to Solgas Energies Limited but the company could not even rehabilitate the site before Global was brought in to salvage the situation.
“Following the concession of Ajaokuta to Global Steel, the investor quickly rehabilitated the steel company and put it back into operation, producing several steel products as well as payment, every month, of about three hundred million Naira (N300m) workers salaries. But when a new government of YarÁdua took over in 2007, people who were sponsored by enemies of Nigeria began to write petitions, making unsubstantiated allegations that Global Steel was slow, that they were taking consumables to Delta and all that, which misled President Yar’Adua into terminating the concessions on Ajaokuta and others,” the Association’s president said.
According to Gilbert, Nigerian artisans and small scale dealers in steel and allied products were in effective business while Global Steel operated Ajaokuta and Delta Steels companies, lamenting that since Global Steel was chased out of the companies, their members have equally being dormant as nothing meaningful has been happening on the sites of the steel plants while Federal Government bear the burden of payment of salaries”
“People are good at criticising when serious minds are working. But ask the critics if they have the capacity to do it. We should ask those who called for the termination of those concessions what they have contributed for the development of the steel sector since Global Steel left the steel plant sites. We should ask them why the sites have been dormant without meaningful operation while Federal government pays hundreds of millions of Naira as salaries to workers on monthly basis,” Gilbert said.
The Association therefore commended commended President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Hon. Minister for Solid Minerals Development Dr. Kayode Fayemi for their forthrightness and commitment which led to the implementation of the decisions reached on the arbitration and mediations.