… As Moscow pledges to help resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel plant
BY Emma Emeozor
As part of effort to create a scientific and industrial base in Nigeria, Russia and the Federal Government are expected, this month, to sign a bilateral agreement on the creation of a multifunctional scientific and research nuclear center in Nigeria.
Also, Moscow has expressed its readiness to help Nigeria resuscitate the Ajaokuta Steel Plant. This was disclosed by Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Nikolay Nikolayevich Udovichenko while addressing the Congress of Soyuznik Alumni Association Nigeria (The Association of Nigerian Graduates Trained in the Former Soviet Union and Commonwealth of Independent States) and invited guests in Lagos.
‘Harnessing the Potentials of Nigerian Graduates of Higher Institutions of former USSR States’ was the theme of the congress. Udovichenko said nuclear energy is another area with good prospects for cooperation between Russia and Nigeria. According to him, “several years ago, an agreement on the construction of power plant in Nigeria was signed” but “this is a long and complex process, which must be preceded by the creation of the requisite legal and economic frameworks and the training of specialists in the sphere of atomic power.
“This June, we expect to sign a bilateral agreement on the creation of a multifunctional scientific and research nuclear center in Nigeria.” He said specific opportunities abound for cooperation in energy, infrastructure projects, metallurgy and mining.
On the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, the envoy said: “I would like to state clearly that the Russian company ‘Tyazhpromexport,’ which built the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, has already declared readiness to join in the process of the plant restoration, to carry out a technical audit and work out plans for resuscitating the steel plant.”
He told the audience that resuscitating the Ajaokuta Steel Plant was a common challenge for both Nigeria and Russia, just as he recalled that over a thousand Russians and three thousand Nigerian specialists laboured on the construction of the plant.
The envoy also lamented the state of the ALSCON plant in Akwa Ibom, even as “aluminum production remains a burning issue of the day.” He said: “It has been almost three years since the ALSCON plant in Akwa Ibom State stopped functioning due to the unsettled ownership legal issues and gas supply problems.
“We sincerely hope that ultimately, the ownership right of the ALSCON shares by the Russian company in accordance with the decision of the London Court on International Arbitration will be affirmed by the Nigerian legal proceedings. Getting this plant into operation will create jobs for hundreds of Nigerian workers.”
The envoy also raised the hope of Nigerian businessmen when he said: “We look forward to reactivating the functioning of the Trade Representation of Russia in Nigeria. With this, most of the issues of trade and economic activities between the two countries will efficiently be resolved … the economy is a core determinant of bilateral cooperation and independence.”
On the political front, he explained that Russia’s priorities are “unbiased by the prism of geopolitical intrigues.” He is confident that the role of Nigeria and Russia in world politics will continue to increase. “We share common goals, mutual interests characterized by the growth of our common economic potentials, achieving economic security, firm and stable social, economic and political situation.