President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, said Federal Government had developed an industrial blue-print to ensure the complete development of the iron and steel industry to serve as a catalyst for the domestic and industrial development of the country.
Jonathan spoke after commissioning the 700,000 tonnes 5-Stand Tandem Cold Rolled Steel Plant, built by Wempco Steel Mill Limited at Ibafon, Ogun State, noting that the country would be producing about 12 million tonnes of liquid steel by 2020.
He said steel was one of the most important materials used widely for both domestic and industrial purposes throughout the world, explaining that this was why the Federal Government planned to develop the complete ecosystem of this sub-sector.
The President said his "administration has approved the Minerals and Metals Development Road Map, which was recently presented to the public stipulating time-bound targets for the sector," pointing out that the strategies to be adopted would ensure the accomplishment of the set objectives of increasing steel production of three million tonnes of liquid steel by the end of this year and progressively increase to 12 million tonnes by 2020.
According to him, the steel sector was at the heart of his administration's national development endeavour.
He described the building of the steel plant as the single largest private sector investment in the steel sector, and a another milestone in "our determination to reposition our steel sector to play a pivotal role in our match towards industrialisation and national transformation."
Commending WEMPCO for its efforts in developing the country, he said: "By constructing this 700,000 metric tonnes per annum cold rolled steel here to compliment your existing investments in the country, Wempco has demonstrated strong belief and confidence in our economy. I thank you for keeping faith in our country.
"Steel is at the heart of any national economic development endeavour. As we all know, a vibrant steel sector contributes to GDP growth, facilitates exploitation of natural resources and generates economic activities in downstream industries.
"It also promotes job creation, the acquisition of technical skills, transfer of technology and the provision of machine parts and tools. In fact, no nation can industrialise without a vibrant iron and steel sector.
"With increasing globalisation and the growing strategic importance of Nigeria as a key emerging market, we are determined to provide the necessary incentives and support for the growth of the private sector. The steel sector offers immense economic opportunities for our country, which we have not fully exploited.
Industrial revolution plan
"This administration, however, aims to reposition this industry. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in conjunction with other MDAs, has developed an industrial revolution plan, which has identified the iron and steel industry as a focal sector.
"We are committed to improving our investment climate by providing and upgrading necessary infrastructure such as power, roads and rail. Our aim is to keep attracting foreign and local Direct Investment, DI, into key sectors of the economy that will create jobs, stimulate private sector growth, and contribute technology transfer and, ultimately, economic growth and wealth for Nigerians and Nigeria.
"Government will continue to encourage investors and investments in this and other sectors for the good of our country and her great people. We shall continue to support genuine investors that show interest in investing in Nigeria.
"We expect investors to reciprocate this gesture by showing greater dedication as well as transparency in their investment operations.
"We are also working assiduously to bring the security challenges currently facing us under control. Reports from around the world indicate an unacceptable manifestation of insecurity largely orchestrated by individuals, who have no love peace and harmony among members of humanity.
"In this regard, we will continue to collaborate with our friends and allies to bring this menace of insecurity to an end.
"I would like to assure existing and prospective investors of government support as we strive for self-sufficience in local steel production."
I strongly believe that self-sufficiency will open major downstream sector activities with the attendant massive job opportunities and economic empowerment for our engineers, technicians, artisans, fabricators, alike."
"You all may recall that a few years ago, we had less than five functioning steel rolling mills and no cold rolling steel mill, but today, there are more than 15 functioning steel rolling mills producing reinforcing bars and three functioning cold rolled steel mills producing cold rolled flat sheet of which WEMPCO is one of them
"It is my hope that WEMPCO will continue to strive to expand its current production capacity to gradually meet the nation's demand for flat steel sheets. I want to encourage WEMPCO to within the shortest possible time embark on full backward integration so as to produce Hot Rolled Steel, which is the major raw material for producing Cold Rolled Steel."
He however, urged Nigerians patronize locally made products, adding, "We must support our industries and change our appetite for foreign made goods. This way, we shall all contribute our individual quotas towards the economic growth of our country and jobs and wealth creation for our kith and kin."