On independence, a lot of hope was in Nigeria to lead Africa to become the next powerhouse for Africa. Many countries and individuals saw the birth of a nation that will steer up the African economy and lead the continent to economy bliss through industrialization.
Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) popularly known as Ajaokuta Steel was one of the giants the early fathers of Nigeria set up to lead the Nigerian fight to industrialization. This giant which worth $4.6billion as of then and was rooted in Ajaokuta, Kogi State on a 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) site. It is said that the coke oven and byproducts plant is larger than all the refineries in Nigeria combined. However, it has never produced any steel, and it is non-operational.
The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited was incorporated in 1979, and the steel mill is said to have reached 98% completion in 1994. Many multimillion projects have been awarded and mismanaged, sending the industrial giant to sleep and making it just another white elephant projects in Nigeria (the biggest if you ask me). This giant has faced so many challenges including looting of its equipment, vandalism, deterioration of its facilities and several failed attempts at privatization (the Nigerian government took back control in 2016). Many engineers sent abroad for training are fast retiring without even using those training they acquired.
The entire Ajaokuta Steel Project is bigger than Lokoja. There are 24 housing estates on the project and some of the estates have over 1000 homes. There is a National Diploma awarding institution there, a Hospitals and even a seaport. Then there is the main Steel Plant itself on 12,000 plots of land. It has a 68-kilometre road network and another 24-kilometre road network underground. It is Nigeria’s biggest mineral resource investment in one place, unlike the refineries Oil scattered far away from the oil source. With Ajaokuta, everything is either on the site or nearby. It has 43 plants, 40 of which are already completed in it. At the core of the Ajaokuta Project is a blast furnace, the type of furnace used for 70% of the world’s steel production but it has never been turned on. The entire projected was estimated at $4.6 billion. That would equate to about $14.5 billion today when you add yearly inflation rates.
What is the problem of this giant that has kept it from waking up since it fell at sleep? Is it money, resources or professionals? I think is the lack of political will. A project this massive with the potential to solve Nigeria unemployment problem, economic dependency and massively increase the national wealth of this country among other things should not be left sleeping this long. The project has come too far to stop now. I think is high time we woke up this giant, equip him and let him lead the Nigeria fight for diversification, industrialization, job creation and wealth generation. Ajaokuta Steel Company is the Bedrock of Nigerian Industrialization.
LAWAL Richard Oluwaseun (richseun)