Nigeria is putting plans in place to hand over the multi-billion dollar Ajaokuta Steel complex in Kogi State to private investors this year as part of a plan to revive Nigeria’s industrial and mining industries, Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi has said.
Construction of Ajaokuta, which lies on the Niger River and was supposed to have an installed capacity of 5 million metric tons of steel a year, began in 1979.
However, work on the complex was delayed as a result of government’s failure to pay the builders, Russia’s Tyazhpromexport, on schedule. By 2004, when it was taken over by India’s Ispat Industries Ltd., it was yet to produce any steel, leading to the Federal Government tevoking the concession agreement in 2008.
All outstanding legal issues surrounding the revocation are yet to be resolved, Mr. Fayemi said.
“Ajaokuta Steel Mill is one of the major issues I have put on the table”, Fayemi said in an interview in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. “Under my watch” it will be revived, he said.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to boost the slowest economic growth in Africa’s biggest economy by spending on infrastructure and diversifying economic activity away from oil, the price of which has fallen to a seven-year all-time low.
In addition to steel, the Minister said the government aims to improve the implementation of mining laws, make available better data on the country’s deposits and act to regulate informal mining.
However, due to global rout in commodity prices, mr. Fayemi doesn’t expect significant investment soon.
“The sector has been comatose for some time. We will be ready for the next boom”, he assured.
Initially the focus will be on industrial minerals for domestic consumption, he said, adding focus will be on limestone for cement production, iron ore for steel, bitumen for asphalt, barium for oil drilling and lead and zinc.
The country will also try and attract investment into gemstone mining and will improve data on gold deposits in Zamfara State and elsewhere before trying to attract investors in 2017, Mr. Fayemi, a former governor of Ekiti State, said.
An attempt will also be made to revive thermal coal production for power generation.