FG Commits to Developing SMEs in Metal Sector

0

Bennett Oghifo

The Federal Government’s desire to empower SMEs in the metal sector is based on the fact that steel and other metals’ development has unarguably remained the bedrock of industrialisation, sustainable growth and development of any nation.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Abdulkadir Mua’azu stated this at the Nigeria Metallurgical Industry stakeholders’ forum (MISF), an engagement with the South-west geopolitical zone, held at the DBI Guest House Oshodi, Lagos, recently.

Mua’azu said the first phase was recently concluded at Asaba, Delta State, stating that it was timely considering the “Federal Government’s current quest for diversifying our mono-product economy by de-emphasizing dependence on Oil and Gas while focusing more on the non-oil sectors especially the Agricultural, Minerals and Metals sector.”

He said the theme of the forum “Developing SMEs in the Metal Sector for Economic Diversification, Job Creation and National Prosperity” was therefore in tandem with the Change Agenda, vision and mission of the present administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Present at the Lagos’ forum were operators in the metal Industry, captains of industry, the academia, among others.

The Permanent Secretary said “Virtually everything we use today either has components of metals or is produced using metallic equipment. Based on this fact, the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari is poised to create enabling environment for metallurgical operators and all other allied metal outfits in the sector with a view to creating jobs and creating wealth for National Prosperity.

“It must also be mentioned that Nigeria is well endowed with various mineral raw materials that cut across the length and breadth of the nation,” he said and urged stakeholders to “bring their experiences to bear as well as our natural comparative advantage towards rebuilding the ailing metallurgical industry to enable us utilise locally the various mineral raw materials that Nigeria is endowed with for economic diversification.”

He said for this reason, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development developed a Roadmap and also articulated some sustainable programmes, strategies and activities for the development of the metallurgical sector with a view to taking it to the next level. These include: developing a Roadmap for the development of minerals and metals; processing the Nigerian Metallurgical Industry Bill to the National Assembly; Collaboration with all relevant government agencies; Recovery and Re-operationalization of ASCL, Ajaokuta; NIOMCO, Itakpe; DSCL, Aladja and ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi through commercialization and concession; Building confidence on private metallurgical plants operators in the country especially on areas where government could be of assistance in finding solutions to their challenges; Liaising with Nigeria Customs Service towards curbing incessant dumping of substandard steel and other metal products in Nigeria, as well as export of banned scrap metals.

These, among others, he said were the pragmatic steps being taken by the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development towards repositioning the metal sector to attain its pride of place as the bedrock of industrialisation and those who track the activities of the Ministry are already aware of these developments.

Mua’azu said “Against all odds, I sincerely thank you all for your persistent efforts being made towards achieving the level of development so far made in the sector. It is hoped that a renewed zeal and synergised commitment for the development in the metal sector will help us to create the desired jobs for our teeming population, economic diversification and national prosperity.

“While wishing us a fruitful deliberation, it is my sincere desire that the decisions reached at this forum will no doubt go a long way towards projecting the fortunes of the Metals Sector to the next level.”

Speaking on the theme, ‘Developing SMEs in the Metal Sector for Economic Diversification, Job Creation and National Prosperity’, Director, Metallurgical Inspectorate & Raw Materials Development (MI&RMD) Department, Victor O. Ihebinike said, “The drafting of the ‘Nigerian Metallurgical Industry Bill’ was informed by the strong desire to develop a vibrant and robust Metallurgical Industrial sub-sector with government relinquishing its erstwhile role as Owner-Operator to the private sector and reposition itself as Administrator-Regulator in consonance with the Government policy on privatisation and reforms.

He said when passed into Law, the Bill would enable the FGN to actualise the following objectives: Create conducive business environment that will emphasize quality and standards sufficient to attract investment capable of significantly contributing to the diversification of our economy away from crude oil; The Federal Government will act as a motivator/moderator by providing the enabling policies that will stimulate private sector investment; Ensure that the private sector led metals industries operate optimally, producing competitive high quality products for both local and international markets; Have a robust functional integrated Nigerian Metallurgical Industrial sector that will guarantee employment generation and wealth creation.”

It would also “Ensure that private sector led minerals and metals industries function effectively thereby achieving increased industrial utilization and per capita consumption of metals as well as generate revenue for the country; and Champion the course of value addition through metallurgical processes that is based on absolute measuration (metrology); The Management of the Ministry has been working assiduously towards the enactment of the Nigerian Metallurgical Industry Bill in order to have an enabling law for effective regulation of the Metal sector in Nigeria.

The Ministry solicits the support of all Stakeholders especially metal sector operators in order to realize this; The Ministry is also working hard towards fast-tracking the re-operationalization of ASCL, NIOMCO, ALSCON and DSCL now Premium Steel and Mining Company; The FGN is encouraging metal sector operators, especially local producers of metallurgical mineral raw materials and steel and metal products to synergize with miners towards ensuring local beneficiation of metallurgical raw materials in Nigeria in order to put an end to the ‘dig it and ship it’ syndrome. This would boost downstream activities in the metal sector thereby creating jobs and generating wealth; The FGN is also encouraging all metal sector operators to comply with set standards for the production of all metal products in order to ensure that our local products compete favourably in the international market; The FGN is planning to reduce if not eradicate the import of metallurgical raw materials and products that can be produced locally and support the development of home-grown technologies in line with local content; It is envisaged that this Forum would continue to partner with the Metallurgical Operators Association of Nigeria (MOAN), an association that would interface with Government on developmental issues pertaining to the metal sector.