Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
The Federal Government has reaffirmed its commitment to resuscitating the Ajaokuta Steel Company, assuring that the troubled state enterprise has not been neglected.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu, who was represented by the acting Director, Steel and Non-Ferrous metals, Engr Olasupo Kolawole stated this at a workshop on stimulation and promotion of activities of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the metal sector at the weekend in Ilorin.
Eng Kolawole said “for the past two three months now, you will see the trend going on in the steel sector; the President and his entourage went to Russia last two months for negotiation on how to bring Ajaokuta up. The underground work is still on going, [and] hopefully by January everything will be carried by the government of Russia and Federal Government of Nigeria on how to bring Ajaokuta Steel Company to the limelight again.
“Ajaokuta is an integrated plant comprising about 43 industries in one particular place. If Ajaokuta should come up, I believe the steel market in the whole of West Africa, Ajaokuta will take over; if Ajaokuta should come up, it will take care of all West African countries, supplying them all type of steel products, including the local steel which will save us the foreign exchange that we use in importing steel products.”
On local manufacturing, he said: “That is part of what we are doing now; the small and medium enterprises in that sector are very important… Ajaokuta is the upstream, while the lower is the downstream, the public contact with these lower downstream, we are trying to sensitise and promote them and what will improve their productivity in terms of operation, in terms of how to source for funds to carry out their operation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu stated that “the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, which is the organ of government responsible for ensuring the growth and sustainability of the metal sector in Nigeria, has recognized the SMEs as the engine of growth for the development of the metal industry in Nigeria. The SMEs contributes significantly to wealth creation, employment generation and increase in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”
“Importation of metal products has lead to a major drain in the nation’s foreign exchange. We import all kinds of metal products, even those produced within the country, because the quality of products made in Nigeria are not comparable with those imported and the quantity of metal products made in Nigeria cannot meet the demand in the country. Imported products are also in higher demand in Nigeria due to the fact that they are cheaper.
“This trend has several negative implications which creates ripple effects, [including] overwhelming poverty due to folding up of SMEs, which leads to several jobs being lost, importation continuously [being] increased and reduction of GDP. It is against the backdrop of this and the need to change this narrative that the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development initiated this project.
“The aim and objectives of this workshop is basically to sensitise the SMEs in the metal industry in Nigeria on their importance in the sector, the role the government is expected to play to help in SME growth, and strategies the SMEs can adopt to develop their business to be able to produce greater quantity and highly quality metals, so that metal products produced in Nigeria will be able to compete favorably with imported products.
“It is no longer news and I believe we are all aware that the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Architect Olamilekan Adegbite, and the Minister of State, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah, declared the growth of the metal industry a priority, and the Ministry is ready to support metal production in Nigeria.
“A workshop was held recently to fashion out a downstream mineral policy to the consumption and utilisation of Nigeria’s locally produced metals,” he said.
Also speaking at the workshop, the acting Director (Steel and Non-Ferrous metals), Engr Olasupo Kolawole, said “this is the first time the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is organising this programme in North Central and Kwara State, in particular.
“The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development initiated this programme in 2012 with the aim of creating awareness amongst the SMEs in the metal sector, comprising of foundries, fabricators, welders, manufacturers of spare parts, operators in aluminum extrusion and allied products.
“It is the vision, which is to facilitate the transformation of minerals and metal sector for sustainable industrial growth and economic surplus, of the Ministry to see these classes of operators in the metal sector fully integrated with other stakeholders in the industry.”
The Stimulation and Promotion Workshop is an annual event of the Steel and Non-Ferous Metals Department of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development which is rotated amongst the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. A sensitisation exercise was conducted by relevant officers of the department in November 2019 preparatory to this workshop. The exercise was to identify the metals sector SMEs in the selected states, inspect their operational processes and administer questionnaires to the operators to extract necessary information.
The information generated from the returned questionnaires provided the Ministry with the operators’ contacts, infrastructural needs, equipment requirements, operating capacities, and challenges faced. The database generated from the North Central Zone (B) will aid the Ministry in formulating favourable policies for the SMEs
Furthermore, the Ministry has also invited relevant reputable stakeholders/partners to make presentations on critical subject areas to improve the performances of the SMEs in the metals sector.
The invited resource persons will be addressing the operators on the following: Welding and Fabrication Technology with respect to SMEs in the metals sector, the Imperatives of Industrial Shop Floors Safety and Best practices the funding Challenges of SMEs and Strategies to Access Funding for SMEs in the metals sector and the Role of SMEDAN in Strengthening Metals Sector SMES for greater contribution to National GDP.