By Kasim Sumaina
The federal government yesterday disclosed that the managements of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) and the National Iron Ore Mining Company Limited (NIOMCO) have put machinery in place to ensure a conducive environment for the operation of the Technical Audit Team, which is expected from Russia soon.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Oluwatoyin Akinlade, disclosed this in a statement after a two-day working visit to the two companies on December 2, 2020, to observe the level of preparation.
Speaking during a meeting with management and staff of ASCL and NIOMCO respectively, Akinlade praised them for their passion and commitment towards keeping the companies’ infrastructure in good shape and the environment habitable in spite of the daunting challenges confronting them.
The permanent secretary reiterated the federal government’s commitment to resuscitating both companies, adding that the Minister, Olamilekan Adegbite, and the Minister of State, Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, were working assiduously towards seeing the dream of the two companies commencing full operation.
Stating that “Ajaokuta is the future and the bedrock of Nigeria’s development,” Akinlade noted that its resuscitation “must be done, and can be done.”
However, she noted that Ajaokuta without NIOMCO is like a “car without tyres,” hence, efforts are being made to resuscitate both companies at the same time to achieve the desired result.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in October 2019 in Sochi, Russia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation on the resuscitation and completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company. One of the strategies in that process is the technical audit of the installed equipment.
The permanent secretary urged the staff to sharpen their skills to meet up with the upcoming task, as well as to continue to maintain the good industrial harmony, assuring them that efforts are being made to address some of the welfare challenges, especially salary arrears.
While briefing the permanent secretary, Sole Administrator of NIOMCO, Mr. Nkechika Augustus, said the mandate of the company was to provide the basic raw material for iron and steel production, and that NIOMCO was required to supply the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited with 2.15 million tons of iron ore concentrate with iron (FE) content of 63 to 64 per cent in its first phase of operation during which it is expected to produce 1.3 million tons of steel.
He disclosed that the need to fully complete the rehabilitation of the plants and also acquire additional mining equipment early cannot be over-emphasised.
“This is because to meet the first phase of ASCL’s production level alone, NIOMCO should produce and process seven million tons of raw iron ore annually,” Augustus said.
In the same vein, the Sole Administrator of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, informed the Permanent Secretary that the staff members are fully prepared to work with the Technical Audit Team and the ministry to achieve the set goal.
According to him, “I have had the opportunity to meet with you severally since you came on board, and have found you to be focused, full of energy and drive. In fact, your leadership style at the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT) Secretariat gives me the hope that our collective efforts of bringing back the steel plant on track is in safe hand.
“Your visit is an opportunity for you to physically see and feel the steel plant and understand what the workers of this company are doing to ensure that the plant remain safe and serviceable.”