By Damilola Oyedele
The Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSSAN) and the Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN) have called on the Federal Government not to entertain recommendations to abandon or scrap Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO).
The unions said such recommendations from people they described as ‘agents of the World bank and Paris Club’ are selfish and unpatriotic, considering the potentials that both companies hold for Nigeria’s economy.
The unions noted that Ajaokuta alone, if allowed to operate at maximum capacity, will require at least 30,000 professionals to manage it and also allow for 500,000 quality jobs from the downstream industries.
Briefing journalists in Abuja recently, the National President of ISSSAN, Salihu Otori, refuted claims that Nigeria does not have the capacity to develop and manage an iron and steel complex, whose production are currently being controlled by the industrialised societies. He also disagreed that the technology at Ajaokuta is obsolete or that the complex is a white elephant project.
Otori noted that these arguments are being put forward by the ‘agents’ of developed economies whose main target is to capture Nigeria’s huge market potentials for steel and related products in order to develop their principals’ home economies, strengthen their technological development, all at the detriment of Nigeria.
“Even with all the contradictions about the last concession agreement, the completed units of the plant were operated and substantial revenue generated,” he added.
General Secretary of ISSSAN, Orimijuba Titus, said the unions are not averse to privatisation of the companies, but urged that such an exercise should be done in a manner that would protect the interest of Nigeria.
“Ajaokuta is not a moribund company; the blast furnace is one of the best in the world. We are convinced that the two firms can lead Nigeria to technological development, but they are playing politics with the firms,” he said.
Orimijuba called on President Goodluck Jonathan to demonstrate strong political will and direct that the completed sections of the companies be operationalised so that they can boost revenue generation.
The unions expressed their support for the current actions of the government which included appointing sole administrators for the companies; people who were part of the whole process and have the ability to push the firms to explore their technical and economic potentials.