Nigeria is currently a net importer of steel with negative trade balance of $1.27 billion in 2018 a report by the International Trade Center (ITC) has revealed.
The report came in the wake of the shortage of billet and this has affected the capacity of steel companies in Nigeria to produce.
It was also gathered from industry players that the inability of the iron making sections of the Premium Steel plant (formerly Delta Steel Company) to function and the non-completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company have left the National Iron Ore Mining company (NIOMCO), the only beneficiation facility in the country inactive since 2008.
Experts further stated that shortage of raw materials (billets) had led many steel processing companies resort to the use of steel scrap for steel production, therefore depending heavily on import to fill the supply deficit.
Speaking during an interview with THISDAY on the matter, the Head, Advisory and Consulting, Mining Leader, PwC, Cyril Azobu, said in 2018 the federal government presented a roadmap for the development of Nigeria's industrial minerals' which was developed by the World Bank and assisted by Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification (MinDiver) project.
He stated that part of the MinDiver project was a baseline study for the metals in the steel industry, adding that the study was expected to give insights about the situation of the market and feed into institutions around.
According to him, "So when you go to Kogi State where you have a lot of Iron ore deposits. There is a potential of creating an ecosystem. If you setup and stimulate activities in that area, you are going to have steel production that feeds into the massive steel rolling plants in Ajaokuta, Delta steel, linked to River Niger.
"You can actually have transportation in batches. Firstly, a study has to be carried out on how to address these challenges.
"There is need for the involvement of the private investors who have long term stake and with desire to invests in the sector; when we integrate all of these together, we can then create industrial parks around all of these hubs and get trigger of activities, what is going to happen is that you are going to mobilise employment in the mining hub, where there is deposit.
"Also, you will be stimulating the integration of the value chain, and bridging the gap in terms of scarcity of billets or raw materials for the rolling plants.
"Again, you will be creating a big uptake that encourages investors in Iron Ore to develop their products because that is the only way that the investors can be assured that their investment will be received into the sector."
He noted that there was no need for another roadmap and appealed for continuity in the sector, adding that there was a Mining Implementation and Strategy Team (MIST) set up to ensure implementation of the 2016 roadmap.
He added: "I think what needs to happen is to take one resource and see it through. So the roadmap identifies a number of resources of which bitumen is one of them and other industrial minerals.
"But if you take the steel sector and give it a push I think there are a lot of fairly immediate gains that you can achieve with that. There are companies waiting for the right actions to be taken by government so that they can step in.
"Foreign investors will be looking into exportation. If the foreign investors see that there is an opportunity to make money locally because when you value add, that is, when you process and go further down the value chain, you create more value and wealth for yourself and the ecosystem.
"I also think that there are financial institutions we can bring together to say how we can fund the sector and make it work. A sector like the steel sector is a massive sector in any society and there has to be a collaborative effort to unlock the values."