Ilorin — The federal government at the weekend said it had signed a memorandum of understating (MoU) with the Russian government towards reviving the multi- billion naira Ajaokuta Steel Company.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Abdulkadir Muazu, disclosed this in Ilorin, Kwara State, during a workshop on, 'Stimulation and Promotion of Activities of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the metal sector, organised by the ministry.
He said, "for the past two three months now, you will see the trend going on in the steel sector, the president and his entourage went to Russia two months ago for negotiation on how to bring Ajaokuta up for full optimum use.
"The underground work is still ongoing, hopefully by January everything will be finalised by government of Russia and federal government of Nigeria on how to bring Ajaokuta steel company to streamline."
Represented at the event by the Director, Steel and Non-Ferrous Metals, Engr. Olasupo Kolawole said, "If you look at Ajaokuta, it is an integrated plant comprise about 43 industries in one particular place. If Ajaokuta should come up, I believe the steel market in the whole of West African, Ajaokuta will take over.
"If Ajaokuta Steel company should come up, it will take care of all West African countries supply than all type of steels product even in the locally steel which will save us the foreign exchange that we use in importing steel product."
On the desire of the government to boost local steel manufacturers in the country, Muazu said, "it is part of what we are doing now. The small and medium enterprises in that sector are very important.
We are talking of Ajaokuta, Ajaokuta is the upstream while the local manufacturers are in the downstream and with the public contact with these lower downstream, we are trying to sensitise and promote them and improve their productivity in terms of operation and how to source for fund to carry out their operation."
Furthermore, Muazu said: "The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development which is the organ of government responsible for ensuring the growth and sustainability of the metals sector in Nigeria has recognised SMEs as the engine of growth for the development of the metals industry in Nigeria.
"The SMEs contributes significantly to wealth creation, employment generation and increase in the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP)."