….As Hope Rises on Ajaokuta –
The Federal Government on Monday signed a historic agreement with Global Steel for the resuscitation of the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIONCO) located in ItakpeKogi State. The signing ceremony which took place at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, capital of Nigeria, was presided over by Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Nigeria’s Minister for Steel and Solid Minerals Development signed the agreement on behalf of the Nigerian government while Mr. Pramod Mittal, Chairman of Global Steel singed on behalf world renowned steel producing Company.
Vice President YemiOsinbajourged the parties to stick to the terms of the agreement to realize the objective of revamping the Itape and Ajaokuta companies within the timeline, adding that the speedy resuscitation and operation of NIOMCO would aid efforts at putting Ajaokuta back to life.
“There are specific agreements that have been reached; there are specific conditions that have to be met and there are time lines which have been set in the agreements.I think it is very important that we keep to those timelines, and that we observe those agreements as faithfully as possible.
“There is no question at all that there might be situations where there might be slip offs of one kind or the other.But I hope that we might be able to accommodate each other in the spirit of the mediation and ensure that we keep the objective in sight.Which is, to make sure that this concession works and that eventually we are able to free up Ajaokuta for business as quickly as possible,’’ the Vice President said.
The Vice President noted that the signing of the agreement was unique which informed the presence of the media and other stakeholders. “We are reasonably familiar with the history of all of what we have experienced with Ajaokuta and the Iron Mining Corporation as well.It is very clear that this is one of those terrible failures of just basically getting things done over the years.I think that somehow or the other we let the ball drop so many years ago and somehow, we couldn’t get this back on track,” Osinbajo said.
“Unfortunately, it has cost us a lot; the fact that we had an Ajaokuta Steel for so long and we had the Iron Mining company for so long and yet produced absolutely nothing is by itself a tragedy if immense proportions,’’ he said, adding however, that it was a good thing that the country was now able to recover from all that and get on the path of getting things right.
Osinbajo expressed optimism that the Chairman of Global Steel Mr. Mittal, would work closely with the present administration to achieve the objectives of ensuring that both the Iron ore company and Ajaokuta Steel Company operated efficiently.
In his own speech, the Minister for Steel and Solid Minerals, Dr. Fayemi recalled that the resuscitation of the Iron Ore Company was concessioned to the Global Steel in 2005 by the administration for 10 years but revoked by the UmaruYar’Adua administration in 2008 which led to dispute at the international court of arbitration and later mediation which culminated into the present result of signing the agreement.
The minister said the determination of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to diversify the economy ignited the effort to ensure that Itape and Ajokuta came alive again, saying that the agreement to return the Iron Ore Mining Company to Global Steel was reached in London in June to enable it to complete its concession and ensure that Ajaokuta reverts back to the federal government.
Fayemi promised that in order to achieve success in the current deal, the Federal Government would ensure that other areas such as the rail transportation and ports issues would be addressed by the Ministry of Transportation.
He said that the Iron Ore Company was the core supplier of raw materials for major steel companies in the country and that government had spent $3.3 billion to import steel products since.
The Chairman of Global Steel, Mittal in a speech said that his company started operations in the country in 2004 with determination to produce steel for the country and was able to put all the companies into operation before the unfortunate decision to terminate the contracts, adding that it was important for Nigeria that the steel sector was developed, in spite of the long process.
Mittal said the company was poised to produce three million tons of steel in three years but added that for effectiveness the company would need rail, gas and power supplies.