Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Steel sector operators have applauded the recent closure of Nigeria’s land borders, saying until the federal government took the action, the sector was on the brink of extinction.
They urged the federal government to sustain the closure if the move to revitalise the Ajaokuta Steel Complex was to be meaningful.
Speaking on behalf of other operators after a meeting with officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the GMD/CEO, KAM Holdings Ltd., Dr Kamoru Yusuf said between 2016 and July 2019, Nigeria lost over two million metric tons of steel valued at over N504 billion to smugglers due to porous borders.
Yusuf, who is also the Chairman, Basic Metal, Iron Steel Fabricated Products said steel products from Europe, Americas and elsewhere are being dumped in neighboring countries with Nigeria who in turn exploit the nation’s porous borders to smuggle them into the country thereby sounding the death knell of the industry as well as creating mass job losses.
According to him, until the border closure, a lot of steel companies in Nigeria, including the biggest ones were shutting down, and throwing thousands of youths into the job market due to the activities of smugglers.
He noted that even the rolling mills the government had privatised were struggling due to the smuggling menace.
“Even the steel mills that the governed had privatised (Jos Rolling Steel Mill, Katsina Rolling Steel Mill, Osogbo Rolling Steel Mill) are not doing well because of smuggling and dumping of steel into Nigeria,” he pointed out, adding that several steel companies in Nigeria had been shut down due to the activities of smugglers.
Yusuf lamented that
the industry is on the verge of losing about 20,000 jobs again if smugglers were allowed to continue, stressing that the present effort at revitalising the Ajaokuta Steel will be an exercise in futility if smuggling is not contained.
“Now we have off-takers on the steel we produce and we even have better quality steel products locally,” he assured, praising the CBN as the only bank supporting manufacturers with long term funds.
He declared that the closure of Nigerian land borders was having a positive impact on the steel industry as local manufacturers are being revived
and are now able to service their bank loans.
The border closure, he added, was also blocking huge financial leakages that otherwise would have been lost to smugglers.
He said: “We have seen a lot of positive impact on the border closure. We are selling our stock and we are now able to service our loans from the banks.”
“I can tell you that the best thing that has ever happened to Nigeria is the border closure. The border closure will enable us realise ourselves as a nation. We are currently losing huge employment due to smuggling of steel into Nigeria. We are not getting employments for our youths,” he noted.