The two unions in the iron and steel industry have said that completion and functioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd. will reduce unemployment and improve the economy.
The unions, Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN) and Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSSAN), also said that presidential assent to the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill, 2018, would impact much on the company and the industry.
The leaders of the unions – Alhaji Kasemu Kadiri, General Secretary of SEWUN, and Mr Bello Itopa, ISSSAN President – spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.
The union leaders were reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s decline to assent to the bill.
NAN reports that the president on April 2 declined assent to the bill, saying that the nation could not afford to commit $1 billion to the rehabilitation of the company because of other priorities.
According to the president, appropriating $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account is not the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints.
In 1971, the Federal Government established the Nigeria Steel Development Authority (NSDA) in order to advance development of the steel industry.
On Sept. 18, 1979, the company was established and it became the successor of NSDA which was dissolved through decree No. 60 of the same year.
Kadiri told NAN that the president and lawmakers should close any loopholes and ensure that the company would begin operations.
According to Kadiri, the project was envisaged to generate socio-economic benefits and increase the production capacity of the nation through linkages to other industrial sectors.
The union scribe said that if the steel company would be allowed to operate well, it would create more employments, earn foreign exchange and increase revenue generation.
He said that rehabilitation of the steel mill was stalled over the years because the Seventh National Assembly cancelled a contract between the Federal Government and Global Infrastructure Holding Ltd. (later Nig. Ltd).
”The concession agreement was cancelled because of outstripping of assets. The government discovered that Global Infrastructure was taking away important machinery, and the matter was taken to court.
”Both parties later agreed to settle out of court through the intervention of former President Goodluck Jonathan,” Kadiri said.
He noted that the steel company was built by Tyanjpromexport (TPE) of Russia and later Global Infrastructure, an India firm that took over the management.
He said that the money needed to complete the steel company was huge though the project was less than five per cent completed.
Kadiri said that when fully revived, the company would have over 30,000 persons in its workforce.
Itopa, ISSSAN President also appealed to Buhari not to delay in resolving the financial issue in the bill and ensure commencement of operations.
According to Itopa, out of the 43 component units of the company, the primary units to be completed for the steel company to function optimally are cokeoven, black furnace, steel making shop and power plant.
“If all these equipment are put in place, Ajaokuta will be set for operations and we will get raw materials to produce steel from the National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe in Kogi.
The union leader said that it was important to revive the steel company inaugurated by the late President Shehu Shagari, noting that it had important areas such as light section mill, wire rod mill, billet, medium section and structural mill.
According to him, the medium section and structural mill could be used to produce the rail lines in the country.
He urged Buhari to sign the bill to enable the company to create thousands of jobs.