Running News & Commentary on Iron & Steel in Nigeria
December 28, 2006 | posted by Nigerian Muse (Archives)


 


Running News & Commentary on Iron & Steel in Nigeria


 

Ajaokuta: Solgas Drags FG to London Arbitration Panel

By Mike Oduniyi, 01.03.2005

 

United States energy group, Solgas Energy Limited, has dragged the Federal Government before a London arbitration panel, seeking relief for alleged unlawful termination of a contract entered into by both parties for the management of the Ajaokuta Steel Company.


Solgas in the statement of relief being sought from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), wants the Nigerian government to pay for all the sums it may be liable for as a result of the government's breach of contracts totalling some $2.409 billion, as well as all costs and legal fees expended by the company.
 

The Federal Government and Solgas entered into a Concession Agreement in June 2003, transfering the management of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant to the US firm for an initial period of 24 months.
 

However, in August last year, the Federal Government terminated the contract alleging under performance by Solgas. It subsequently signed a new concession agreement with Global Infrasrtucture Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of ISPAT, an Indian steel conglomerate.
 

Solgas in the claims filed by its team attorneys, claimed it had in deed commenced the discharge of its own side of the agreement while the Federal Government renege on all aspects of its obligations to the contract.
 

The firm deposed that following the execution of the agreement, it had set to work on the rehabilitation of the steel plant and making preparations to comply with its obligations.


It said it had entered into a $282 million contract with a Russian firm, Zarubzhstronio (ZSM), to perform rehabilitation of the plant.
 

Other contracts entered into in the bid to get the black start production included the supply of $2 billion worth of generators from Caterpilla Company, Ingresol-Rand and Capstone Microturbine, and with Berry Company, Texas for the sale and relocation of $127 million iron carbide plant.
 

The Nigerian government failed to execute its side of the agreement, which included payment of salaries of the plant workers, authorising visa and work permits for Solgas management and failure to provide proper security for the complex.
 

Solgas alleged that the Nigerian government's decision to terminate rthe contract was largely due to political interferance and the company's decision not to oblige bribe demanded by some government officials.
 

"The new contract with Global Infrastructure was to rehabilitate and commission the Ajaokuita Steel Plant, thereby breaching the concession agreement with Solgas.
 

"Solgas seeks recovery of all sums which it would have received had not the FGN and ASCL breached the Agreement, as well as all sums expended in reliance on FGN and ASCL's contractual promises," the company's statement of relief said.
It added that it had earlier served the Federal Government with the 30-day notice required under the contract.


The troubled Ajaokuta Steel plant had been under construction for the past 24 years later, and gulping more than $5 billion (N665 billion).
 

Solgas was contracted on the agreement that it would inject some $3.6 billion to ensure the plant take off at long last.
The new agreement with Global Infrastructure would see it take full control of Ajaokuta Steel Company for 10 years, which is renewable for another 10 years.


Vanguard

Ajaokuta Steel –– Light Section Mill Commences Production

luka binniyat, abuja
Sunday, December 19, 2004

Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd., GIHL, the new managers of Ajaokuta Steel Complex Limited (ASCL) announced last Friday the commencement of production at the Light Section Mill of the Steel Plant.

According to a press release signed by the General Manager of GIHL, Abuja Office, Mr. Aloysius Lobo, the Light Section Mill is capable of producing round & rib bars (12-30 mm), squares (10-30 mm), hexagons (10-26mm) and strips (6-12 x 12-70 mm) and a wide variety of structural such as angles (25x25x4 mm to 50x50x5/6 mm), channels (30-45 mm) & T-sections (30-60 mm).

These products are mostly used in construction activities. The mill has an installed capacity of 400,000 tons per annum, meaning that there would be a significant drop in the local prices of these products soon.
Last month, it commissioned the Wire Rod Mill and other mills, three months ahead of schedule.

According to the statement, the managing director & chief executive officer of GIHL, Lalit Kumar Sehgal, affirmed that the other units like the Coke Oven Battery, Blast Furnace & Steel Melting Shop are progressing well and would be commissioned on schedule.

The Federal Government signed a new consensus agreement with Global Infrastructure Holding Limitd (GIHL) –– a subsidiary of ISPAT of India –– on 18th August this year, after it terminated its concession with Solgas Energy Nigeria Limited.

ISPAT would rehabilitate, complete and run the US$10 billion abandoned government investment for ten years before handing back to government.


Ajaokuta Steel rolls out iron bars, 17 years after

The Punch, Thursday, December 02, 2004


Michael Faloseyi, Abuja

The Steel Rolling Mill unit of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex resumed production on Tuesday, after about 17 years in the doldrums.

The Minister of Power and Steel, Senator Liyel Imoke, presided over the ceremony hosted by the new management of the steel complex, Ispat, preparatory to resuming the statement froom CAP Plc has announced production of iron bars that were last produced in 1988 at the steel company.

Imoke said that the start up of the rolling mill was gratifying and a reflection of the government’s commitment to ensure steel production in Nigeria. He said that the feat was a step towards realising the dream of producing liquid steel from the complex by May 29, 2005, when the blast furnace would have started operations.

“Indeed it is a beginning of a new era, an era that ended in 1992 the last time the mill functioned. This is the beginning of a realisation of a dream by those who conceptualised the steel complex,” he stated.

“Today is the beginning of a step in many steps that have to be taken to get to the reactivation of the furnace plant,” he stated, adding this is often described as the brain of the steel complex.

Imoke said, “We have taken a few steps in the right direction for the first steel coils to have come out of Ajaokuta. For those who say that nothing good can come out of Ajaokuta, today we are all witnessing something good coming out of Ajaokuata.

“I want to congratulate the new management and host communities, the stakeholders, especially the staff for being very supportive under very trying circumstances and difficult period who resolved to be cooperative.”

He advised the workers to remain dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities, promising that their three-month arrears of salaries owed by the Federal Government would be paid in January alongside their severance benefits, when the new management would have fully taken over.

His words: “We need your commitment, this is your project and for it to work, you have to be committed to it. We need you to commit to working, earning your pay and contributing your quota to the growth and development of not just Ajaokuta but also of Nigeria.”

“The import of producing steel in Nigeria cannot be lost. Nobody produces steel if it is not economic and beneficial or if there is no profit. It is not produced as a national asset. We need to take advantage of the market opportunity in the steel market by producing from this plant.”


Friday October 22, 11:08 PM

Nigeria steel plant to produce 40,000 tonnes in Nov

By Tume Ahemba

 

 

LAGOS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Nigeria's Ajaokuta Steel Co. has started test production and is expected to roll out about 40,000 tonnes of finished products by the end of November, the plant's new manager, India's Ispat Industries , said on Friday.

Nigeria signed a concession agreement in August with Ispat unit Global Infrastructure Holding Ltd. to revive the uncompleted 1.3 million tonnes-per-year mill after the collapse of an earlier deal with UK-registered Solgas.

"The plant has started rolling, we are doing the hot trial and adjusting the parameters to meet international standards," the plant's managing director Lilat Shegal told Reuters.

"We are following a sequential process of stabilising one unit after another. We should be producing between 30,000-40,000 tonnes of finished products by end of November," Shegal said by phone from Ajaokuta in central Kogi state.

Nigeria signed a deal with Ispat after revoking a $3.6 billion 10-year contract with Solgas Energy Ltd. to revamp the mill due the firm's inability to raise the cash.

The deal's collapse dealt a major blow to Nigeria's privatisation programme, which was already suffering after the botched sale of the Aluminium Smelter Co. of Nigeria in July to U.S.-registered BFI Group.

That sale hit the rocks when the firm failed to pay 10 percent of the bid price.

Shegal said Ispat has made a huge investment in the troubled plant, but declined to say how much. He added that the mill's production capacity would be raised in phases until it is fully commissioned in May.

"We have already put in a huge amount of money in the plant. My target is to buy all the spares, get all the experts, get all the necessary equipment needed and to run the plant profitably," Shegal said.

Under the agreement, Global Infrastructure which operates plants in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Libya and the Philippines, is to complete building and manage the steel mill for 10 years before handing it back to the government.

Analysts have said the Indian steel giant has the technical and financial capacity to operate the mill in which successive governments have poured about $4.5 billion since construction first started 25 years ago.

The Ajaokuta plant was 90 percent built by Russia's Tyazyproexport and designed to use local ore and imported coal.

It was one of dozens of white elephant industries built by Nigeria's military rulers in the 1970s to transform the world's eighth-largest oil exporter into an industrial giant.


-

 

This Day

October 22, 2004

Explosion Rocks Ajaokuta Power Plant
From Cletus Akwaya in Abuja
 

Heavy explosion Wednesday rocked Ajaokuta Steel Complex Limited (ASCL)thereby saling up the hope of early commencement of steel production in Nigeria. The explosion affected some portions of the plant, blowing up the huge Electric Motor in the Circulating Water Pump of the Thermal Power Plant (TPP), regarded as the heart of the entire complex.

Reports from Ajaokuta said it took serious effort on the part of the Fire Service to put out the fire which started in the early hours of the morning. No casualty was however reported in the inferno.

THISDAY checks revealed that the explosion errupted as a result of wrong procedures on the part of technicians of ASCL sent to effect rehabilitation of TPP by the new management.

The electric water pump, which sources at the plant described as a very expensive item cools the turbines and the bearings of other ancillary equipments.

Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited (GINL), a subsidiary of ISPAT of India, which was appointed by Federal Governmet in August to cmplete, commissioin and operate the steel complex had upon taken over the factory sacked Power Works Nigeria Limited, the company handling the rehabilitation of the power plant. Power Works had brought the original builders of TPP from Ukraine and had carried out repairs of the abandoned TPP to the crucial test in August.

Both the suspension of Power Works Nigeria Limited and Wednesday's explosion are a major setback to the company, which had promised to complete the rehabilitation of TPP in six months and commence production of steel.

A source close to Power Works Engineers, who worked on the plant, said repais of the damaged parts of TPP would take about a year or two to complete.

It was not clear why technicians, who do not understand the nitty gritty of TPP and had not worked for over ten years were sent to fix the complex plant.

About four years ago, a similar incident occurred at Egbin Thermal Power Station, when some technicians who were not conversant with the system were allegedly assigned to carry out some rehabilitation work on the facility. In that incident, one of the boilers was gutted by fire, leading to a deafening explosion. Government had to bring in Marubeni, of Japan, which built the plant, to effect repairs, a source told THISDAY.

Meanwhile, reports yesterday from Ajaokuta indicated that the management of ASCL were in a protracted meeting with officials of Federal Ministry of Power and Steel in Abuja, ostensibly in a bid to find a solution to the problem.

When Power Works Nigeria Limited carried out the barring test of the TPP after it had worked on it for a month in August there were high hopes that the plant would work again afetr lying waste for over 14 years. The hopes were hinged on the fact that the barring test, was an indication that TPP is indeed in a shape to run again, after due repairs and rehabilitation.

Power Works, a Nigerian Energy company, had brought in Vasily Paseka, the Ukranian who built and operated the most complex and vital part of Ajaokuta Steel Company, with his team of Ukrainians, after it had signed a contract with ASCL, to bring back the plant to life and generate 110 mega watt of electricity for sale to the complex and its environs. The entire repairs were estimated at $20 million and was to be provided by by Power Works. While the Ukrainians teamed with other Nigerian engineers and fixed TPP to its barring test level, leaving three more months for total completion of the job, SOLGAS, which was managing ASCL, had its contract cancelled by government. The contract was not reviewed by GINL when it took over as it preferred fresh negotiations of thew terms of the contrac. However, the Minister of Steel and Steel, Senator Liyel Imoke, at a press conference to usher in CINL, had told the press that GINL would not honour any deal entered by SOLGAS. It was while the negotiations were going on that GINL sent in its technicians to do what Power Works was doing that the explosion happened. So far, Nigeria's investment in the project is in excess of $10 billion (about N1.5 trillion), with mounting loses incurred on staff salaries. Last week's announcement of the production of the first molten steel, said a source in Ajaokuta, was an error, as the molted steel was not produced at the ASCL, but from imported billets by the estranged Global Metrix of Ukraine who were repairing the rolling mills under SOLGAS.


This Day

September 26, 2004

Ajaokuta Steel Begins Production, Oct 8 - MD
From Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Ajaokuta
 


Management of the Ajaokuta Steel Company, has given October 8, as the day it will commence initial production of steel product from the rehabilitated plant.

Managing Director of the company Mr. Lalit Sahgel told newsmen at the weekend that the company intended to produce about 300,000 tones of steel on the first outing.

As part of arrangement to ensure a hitch-free operation, he said the management will be test-running the plant between September 28 and 29, 2004 to be followed by the actual rolling out of liquid steel product on October 8.

"We want to do the cold start on September 28th and we will heat up the furnace on the 29th. It will last about 10 days to stabilize for temperature of over 1000 centigrade. Around October 8, we would be rolling out the first steel from the plant", he said.

Sahgel said that 15,000 tones of Billet has been imported for the median operation which will last for a month before another volume of 30,000 tones could be ordered.

The MD said the production capacity would be further increased to 400,000 tones in a few months time and gradually expanded to meet the 1.5 million tons installed capacity of the plant.

"Every of our plans are on track", Sahgel assured, adding that the management was not under any pressure meeting the target as contained in the agreement with Federal Government.

Following the termination of the 10-year contract agreement it entered with Solgas Energy, an American Energy Company, FG negotiated another concession agreement with the Indian steel firm - ISPAT to complete and operate the Ajaokuta Steel Plant abandoned for almost 27 years.

Under the terms of agreement, the new team are to plough its resources into the rehabilitation of the facilities of the company which was built to 98 percent completion before it was abandoned.

The investing company will in return manage and operate the steel plant for 10 years before handing it over to government. The agreement specified a number of conditions, among which are production targets to be achieved at various stages of the implementation of the deal.
 


Ajaokuta Plant Needs N99bn, Says Imoke
 

  • iSPAT replaces Solgas
    From Samuel Famakinwa, Ahamefula Ogbu, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Yinka Kolawole in Lokoja
     

    Power and Steel minister, Senator Liyel Imoke yesterday told the House of Representatives Committee on Steel that N99 billion was needed to overhaul facilities at the Ajaokuta Steel complex. This is just as the federal government has positioned an indian firm, iSPAT to take over from Solgas to manage the firm.

    Imoke disclosed that the amount, which was not provided for in the 2004 budget, would, however, be needed for the completion of the rail project, rehabilitation of roads, as well as putting the port at Ajaokuta into usable shape.

    The minister, who was in the House to brief the legislators about the new management team that has taken over from Solgas also declared that the government has recalled all sacked staff of the steel plant.

    "The infrastructure that will make Ajaokuta viable is not yet there. They are rail line, functional ports, roads, and electricity. Without these facilities, how can we move 1.3 million coking coal to the plant? We need to dredge the channels and open access to sources of raw materials," the minister told the lawmakers.

    Meanwhile, the new Ajaokuta management contractors, Global Infrastructures Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of ISPAT yesterday formally took over of the steel plant, promising to achieve commercial production of steel from the plant in the next six months.

    At a press conference jointly addressed by the Minister of Power and Steel, Senator Liyel Imoke and chairman of the management team, Mr. Pramod Mittal in Abuja, the firm said it was prepared to achieve among others, the start-up of power plant, Billet Mill, Sinter plant and heating up of coke ovens in the first six months of commencement of the new contract.

    The company also said it would ensure the revival of workshops, utilities and auxiliaries, supplies of Iron Ore, Limestone and Dolomite from mines and match recruitment, training and development of human resources with pace of resuscitation at the steel plant.

    "We have a very good rehabilitation plan and design. Our objective is to bring this plant into operation as soon as possible and we have given fixed targets to government in terms of planning and operations and we are going to demand fixed targets from employees of the company. Our target is to complete the steel-making capacity by 2005," Mittal said.

    The Chairman further assured that his team would within the next twelve months activate the Blast furnace, Steel Melting and Casting plant as well as Medium structural Mill of the plant, adding that they will attempt to achieve the set targets even at an earlier date.

    On how the new team would cope with the enormous challenges of kick-starting the plant, Mittal said they had already started putting resources in place and mobilizing manpower to site having negotiated the contract.

    "We intend to use and optimize the utilization of all existing natural resources available in the country, which includes optimizing the operation of the Port in Warri, optimizing the utilization of Iron Ore, Optimizing the Dolomite Mine, Limestone.

     


  • Daily Independent Online.        

     * Tuesday, August 24, 2004.

    BUA International emerges preferred bidder for Delta Steel

    •Wants payment spread over one year, tax holiday

    By Sanya Adejokun,

     Senior Correspondent, Abuja  

    The National Council on Privatisation has formally declared BUA International Limited as the preferred bidder for the troubled Delta Steel Company (DSC), Aladja Delta State after it increased its June 18 bid of $20.5 million to $25 million.

    Owned by Kano businessman, Isiyaku Rabiu, BUA emerged the highest bidder for the 80 per cent equity shares in Delta Steel Company after outbidding two other competitors- OSAKA Steels, which bidded $2.55 million and Niger Benue Transport Company (NBTC), which bidded for $10 million.

    BUA showed great determination to win the bid during the bids opening ceremony by substantially upping its first round bid of $7.5 million to $20.05 million when Mr. Akin Kekere-Ekun, chairman of the Technical Committee of the National Council of Privatisation (NCP) announced the second round bidding conducted at the NICON Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

    But Kekere-Ekun, while declaring BUA the winner of the day’s contest, refused to pronounce it preferred bidder, insisting that the amount still fell short of the undisclosed base price.

     He said he would report to the council and report back to the company but NCP finally approved its bid after it increased the price during further negotiations.

    Although BUA was originally a trading company, it has since diversified into the real sector of bulk cement re-bagging, flourmills, oil processing, fabrication and financial services, according to the technical committee chairman.

    However, The Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Dr. Julius Bala, told Daily Independent in Abuja that the company has requested some incentives from the council on the transaction.

    According to him, BUA has asked for a tax holiday and the payment of $20.5 million within 90 days of its being conferred the status of preferred bidder and pay the balance of $4.5 million one year thereafter.

    This means that the company would not have to pay the usual initial 10 per cent within 15 working days of that conferment. “These requests have been forwarded for the NCP for approval,” Bala stated.

    The Group is said to have established “enduring working relationships with foreign groups as Midland Standard Inc, Cleveland, Ohio USA; Rooney Associates, USA; and Kardemir Iron & Steel Works, Karabuk, Turkey.

    “BUA has a proven technical partnership and management agreement with Ferro International Trade Inc., Ankara, Turkey for the iron and steel projects. This Turkish Iron and Steel firm has agreed to work with Kardemir Integrated Iron and Steel Company to support BUA,” Kekere-Ekun declared.

    Established at a cost of $1.5 billion, DSC started operations in 1982 and achieved 25 per cent of installed capacity in 1985 but stopped production in 1996 due to working capital restraint.

    According to Bala, the rehabilitation of the company could not go on because only the Federal Government paid its financial obligation of $45 million while the contractors failed to remit $55 million and $40 million counterpart funding respectively.

    Following this, the NCP approved the immediate privatisation of the company on the basis of 80 per cent to core investor, 10 per cent to local community and 10 per cent to DSCstaff.


    This Day

    August 23, 2004

    Ajaokuta Thermal Plant Undergoes Test Run
    From Cletus Akwaya in Abuja
     


    Comprehensive rehabilitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL)Thermal Power Plant (TPP) being undertaken by Power Works Limited, inched towards completion last week with the "blaring" test on the 110 mega watts power facility.

    The repairs expected to gulp $20 million is being carried out by Ukrainian engineers, who built the plant from scratch to completion in 1987, in conjunction with some local engineers.

    The "blaring" test, climaxed several weeks of inspection and preliminary repairs and replacement of key components by the Ukrainian team led by Engineer Vasily Paseka.

    Last week's feat raises hope for the resuscitation of the steel complex itself as a lot of the operations in the main steel complex is dependent on the power supplied from the TPP. It also gave indication of the repairable condition of the plant abandoned for about 10 years.

    Chairman of Power Works Limited, an independent Nigerian Energy Company, Dr. Akin Durotoye, who spoke to newsmen at the weekend said the rehabilitation works would be completed in a "few weeks time."

    Durotoye disclosed that his company signed a contract with ASCL to finance and actually carry out repairs of the TPP adding, apart from the repairs, his company would also generate power and sell to ASCL for 10 years, beginning from the date of completion and operation of the plant.

    He disclosed that one of the two turbines of the power plant was in good condition while three of the five boilers have been fixed.

    "We have ordered for more parts from Ukraine, the country that built the plant", he said, adding that but for delays in clearing the goods, the power plant would start generating 50 mega watts of power in a few weeks time.

    He noted that since the TPP was the heart of the operation of the steel complex, its early completion means that whoever would buy or manage the complex has a major problem already taken care of.

    "The TPP generates electricity that the entire complex requires," he stated adding, "the steam which is heated several hundreds of degree centigrade, that ultimately smelts the steel, is heated at the TPP". Also, he said the TPP has the cooling system of the steel production plant among other functions.

    He assured that Power Works had the resources and the requisite technical know-how to successfully complete the rehabilitation work on the TPP.

    For instance, he disclosed that the 65-year old leader of the Engineering team, Paseka, whom Power Works searched for and found in Ukraine, was the expert who built the TPP and ran it for 10 years before the ASCL was abandoned in 1994. "Paseka is on ground in ASCL working with 10 engineers who are experts in various parts of the TPP," he added. On the Nigerian side, he disclosed that the Director of Operations, Power Works, Engr. Abdul Bodurin, had worked at the TPP with Paseka, as General Manager, until it shut operations. He gave the name of another Nigerian expert in the team as Dr. Vincent Dogo, the Project Manager, who he said is Ukrainian/British trained Thermal, Electrical and Electronic Engineer who has designed and built power stations in Europe. "We have fully paid our expatriates, even upfront of their remunerations, just to let them have confidence in our contract terms", he said, adding "we have also spent millions of Naira rehabilitating, and furnishing the residents of our staff in the ASCL quarters, to assure them that we mean business and care about their well being." He said that should the TPP start generating power before the steel plants starts working, Power Works Limited would enter into an agreement with the National Electrical Power Authority (NEPA) to sell the power produced at the facility pending the commencement of operations in the steel plant. He regretted that despite the successes his company was recording on the project some Nigerians were not aware that there was a positive development in Ajaokuta beyond the crisis over payment of workers salaries.


    This Day

    May 18, 2004

    Ajaokuta: Indian Firm Replaces Solgas
    From Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

    Following the termination of the 10-year technical and financial concession agreement with Solgas Energy, USA for the management of the Ajaokuta Steel, the Federal Government yesterday struck a fresh deal with an Indian steel company - Global Infrastructure, a subsidiary of ISPAT of India, for another 10-year technical management contract.

    The development comes against the background of Solgas' admission of incompetence to manage the steel company and calls from both the Senate and other stakeholders for the termination of the agreement.

    A statement from the Ministry of Power and Steel, signed by the Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Clinton Oni, said the Federal Government has asked Global Infrastructure to rehabilitate, complete and manage Ajaokuta Steel Company following the termination of an earlier agreement with Solgas Energy of America.

    Minister of Power and Steel, Senator Liyel Imoke, signed the concession agreement on behalf of the Federal Government while Mr. Pramod Mittal endorsed the documents on behalf of his company.

    Under the new agreement, Ajaokuta Steel Company is expected to produce 1.3 million tones of liquid steel per annum, with the possibility of increasing its capacity to 1.5 million metric tones.

    "Owing to grave concerns expressed by Government and stakeholders in the steel sector, the Federal Government and Solgas Energy of America had agreed to mutually terminate the concession agreement, which was entered into 13 months ago," the statement said.

    Imoke expressed confidence in Ispat owing to its global experience in integrated iron and steel business.

    He observed that the company had potentials, financial capability and technical expertise required to effectively operate the Ajaokuta steel company and produce steel for the first time before the end of 2005.

    He noted that the new managers would make all efforts to meet the expectations of Nigerians with full cooperation and support of the Ministry of Power and Steel in the country's bid to realise the spirit and content of the agreement.

    He added that some of the ailing steel plants taken over by ISPAT and later turned around include, the rolling mills at Kalkota, the iron and steel company of Trinidad and Tobago and that of Mexico. Ispat, he said, also increased plant capacity in Canada, Germany and Ireland among others.


    Guardian

    May 18, 2004

    Indian firm takes over Ajaokuta steel
    From Alifa Daniel (Abuja)

    A MEETING of Power and Steel, Minister Liyel Imoke, and officials of the Steel Workers Union of Nigeria (SEWUN) and the Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSAN) has resolved that the shut down Ajaokuta Steel plant be reopened within two weeks.

    The Federal Government has also agreed in principle to pay the workers their salaries until December as well as the 50 per cent shortfall between May and August.

    A violent protest by workers two weeks ago led to the closure of the plant.

    Also yesterday, the government in a statement by the ministry confirmed that the American energy company, SOLGAS Energy, had withdrawn from the concession agreement to run the N600 billion steel firm.

    The statement signed by its spokesman, Mr. Adebolu Clinton Oni, confirms The Guardian exclusive reports last Saturday and Sunday that the concession pact with SOLGAS had been revoked based on stakeholders pressure and the company's confession that it could not raise money to execute the $3.6 agreement.

    Ajaokuta Steel workers union officials confirmed also that the government functionaries told them that it would be represented with 20 per cent membership on the company's new board of directors.

    "They informed also that the handing over and taking over by SOLGAS and ISPAT Group will be done in 30 days," one union official said.

    Meanwhile, the full text of the ministry of power and steel statement yesterday reads:

    "The Federal Government has signed a ten year concession Agreement with Global Infrastructure - a member of ISPAT Group of Indian to rehabilitate, complete and manage the Ajaokuta Steel Company, following President Olusegun Obasanjo's approval to terminate an earlier concession with SOLGAS Energy of America.

    "Minister of Power and Steel, Senator Liyel Imoke, signed on behalf of the Federal Government, while the Chairman of Global Infrastructure, Mr. Pramod Mittel, endorsed the documents on behalf of his company.

    "Under the agreement, Ajaokuta Steel Company is expected to produce 1.3m metric tonnes of liquid steel per annum, with the possibility of increasing its capacity to 1.5m metric tonnes.

    The new managers of Ajaokuta Steel Company have been in the business of Iron and Steel, metals, minerals and infrastructure for over 5 decades.

    "With headquarters in India, ISPAT is currently operating steel plants in Lybia, Bosnia, Philippines and Bulgaria.

    Owing to grace concern expressed by Government and stakeholders in the steel sector, the Federal Government and SOLGAS Energy of America had agreed mutually to terminate the concession agreement, which came into being 13 months ago.

    "Solgas had been unable to mobilise funds and fulfil its obligation since the commencement of the concession.

    Commenting on this latest development, the Honourable Minister of Power and Steel, Senator Liyel Imoke, expressed his confidence with ISPAT Group as a result of its global experience with integrated steel business.

    He observed that the company had potentials, financial capability and technical expertise required to effectively operate the Ajaokuta Steel Company .....

  • steel for the first time before the end of 2005.

    He expected that the new managers would make all efforts to meet the expectations and yearnings of Nigerians with full cooperation and support of the Ministry of Power and Steel and its officials, in the nation's bid to realise the spirit and content of the concession agreement.

    "ISPAT in handling language means steel;

    In the past 5 decades, ISPAT has emerged as a resilient organisation with its core competence in steel-making, raw material sourcing, trading and logistics world-wide.

    "Its manpower base of over 5000 engineers, technicians and management experts from various disciplines, form the backbone of the group, giving it the cultivate edge to continue to expand its presence across the globe.

    Some of the acting steel plants taken over by ISPAT and later turned around include the Rolling Mill at Kalkota, the Iron and Steel Company of Trinidad and Tobago, Sedimical Del Balsar SA, Mexico. ISPAT also increased steel plant capacity in Canada, Germany and Ireland.


  • Ajaokuta Steel Modifications to Slash Material Inputs By $190m

    Hector Igbikiowubo
     

    MODIFICATIONS of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL) is expected to drastically reduce the annual cost of material input by $190 million (N26.03 billion), with additional savings of $30 million (N4.11 billion) in replacement of dollars with naira.

    Senator Liyel Imoke, the Minister of Power and Steel made the disclosure at a press briefing in Abuja recently, while explaining the progress on the implementation of the concession agreement with Solgas Energy over the Ajaokuta Steel Company.

    The concession agreement with Solgas is expected to incorporate pulverised coal injection facilities in the blast furnace and this is expected to reduce importation of coking coke by 50 per cent.

    The minister also disclosed that a feasibility of an Iron Carbide Plant for the Ajaokuta Steel Company is currently being studied and it is expected that when implemented it will increase the annual output of the plant from 1.35 metric tonnes to 1.8 metric tones per annum.

    "This will also reduce scrap importation in addition to the production of high quality steel. New organisational plans for the ASCL are being established to include formulation of statutes of authority, corporate policy and procedural manual," he said.

    On the current state of the ASCL's power plant, the minister said that Solgas Energy has signed a contract agreement with Powerworks Limited for the reactivation, expansion and operation of the Thermal Power Plant.

    Highlights of the concession agreement between Solgas and the Federal Government includes:

    rehabilitation, completion, commissioning and operation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant;

    expansion and increase in the production capacity of ASP from 1.3 metric tonnes per year to 2.6 metric tonnes per year;

    build a gas processing plant to supply Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for electric power generation;

    provide additional electric power generation capacity of 2,300MW;

    effect the completion, refurbishment and development of the steel township; and complete the balance of the civil engineering works.

    Senator Imoke also disclosed that the Federal Government had constituted a monitoring committee for the implementation of the concession agreement between both parties in line with the provisions of Article 13.

    On the rehabilitation of the Delta Steel Company Limited, the minister said the plant is at various stages of completion, adding that the rolling mill is almost complete and that cold testing of the spares and equipment is on.

    "Materials required to rehabilitate the steel melting shop have been fully delivered to the plant site, awaiting installation. Water supply, air separation plant, heavy-duty equipment, energy distribution are also nearing completion," he disclosed.

    He recalled that the Federal Government had granted import duty waiver and expatriate quota in line with Article 5.4 of the rehabilitation agreement with Messrs Voest-Alpine Industrial Services (VAIS) of Austria and Osaka Steels Limited (OSL).

    Senator Imoke also said the Federal Government had also provided letters of credit in favour of VAIS-OSL valued at $45 million for the purchase of spare parts and equipment.

    The rehabilitation of the plant is expected to gulp $100 million while another $40 million is required for take-off as working capital.

    In conformity with World Bank standard, the minister said the contract with both companies had been reviewed and a new agreement signed with OSL, while that of VAIS is yet to be signed.

    "The management team is working to re-invigorate the steel plant by reactivating some of the units (the Lime plant, Sodium Silicate plant and Foundry), which were not encumbered by the rehabilitation contract.

    Reactivation of the Lime plant through in-house effort was completed and the plant commenced production on November 17, 2003," he said.

    ********************************************************************************* +

    Stakeholders Chide Imoke Over Steel Sector

    Power and Steel minister Liyel Imoke has come under attack from angry steel experts for not highlighting activities of the sector during his ministry's annual media briefing on Monday.

    The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Imoke, at the briefing in Abuja, focused solely on the power sector, with only a brief mention of the steel sector.

    But, Dr. Sanusi Mohammed, Secretary-general of the African Iron and Steel Association (AISA), who reacted to the situation, in an interview with NAN in Abuja, described it as "pitiably unfortunate."

    "It is an unfortunate thing really. Stakeholders in the steel sector have been urging government to create separate ministries for power and steel so that the steel industry can have a minister for once.

    "That the minister did not have anything to say about the steel sector only confirms our stand. Government has no interest in steel, even when it is the bedrock of any industrialisation and has a lot to offer the ordinary Nigerian," he said.

    The AISA scribe said that by his action, Imoke had denied Nigerians the right to know what was happening to the steel sector, especially efforts for its privatisation.

    Mohammed lamented that Imoke had gone the way of his predecessors by limiting his focus to the power sector, but said he was not surprised as the minister was a "natural NEPA man," having headed NEPA's technical committees for the past five years.

    He said that Imoke should have informed Nigerians of the progress of the $3.6 billion US dollar concessional agreement between the government and US-based Solgas Energy for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex (ASC).

    Also deserving mention, he said, were the rehabilitation efforts on the Delta Steel Council (DSC) and the fate of the Inland steel rolling companies at Osogbo, Jos and Katsina.

    Mohammed said that Imoke should have also told Nigerians what roles the National Metallurgical Development Centre, Jos, and the Metallurgical Training Centre, Onitsha, were expected to play in government's steel programme.

    He said that Imoke should also have spoken on government plans towards exploring locally available raw materials necessary for the production of steel in ASC, especially dolomite, limestone, refectory clays and cokeable coal.

    The AISA scribe reiterated AISA's oppostion to the deal that saw government surrendering ASC to Solgas, because the firm lacked the technical and financial competence to handle the project.

    "When we pointed this out last year, we were called names. They insisted that ASC would be completed in six months. That agreement is ten months now with nothing to show. We have indeed been vindicated," he said.

    He recalled that the presidency had also expressed anger with Solgas' poor performance, with President Olusegun Obasanjo conveying such disappointment in a letter to the firm in January.

    "It was after that letter that Solgas started scampering for working partners and quickly imported some Ukrainians who were expected to rehabilitate and operate the rolling mills and the light mill section," he stressed.

    According to him, the Ukrainians were yet to achieve much because they stopped work after they were not paid and only recently resumed following the intervention of their embassy.

    ********************************************************************************* +

    Solgas Energy And the Steel Industry

    Godwin Adeogba
     

    Compromising national integrity?

    An industry is strategic to a country when the range, scope and ends-orientation of that industry have a long-term impact on a large proportion of the people in a manner that may ultimately determine the socio-cultural and economic well being of the people. Such an industry in any country usually has Government as the major client, at least initially, and it is usually the Government that has to bear the responsibility of developing and sustaining it in the national interest. It is these strategic industries that motivate the enablement of other industries, directly or indirectly.

    In developed nations, strategic industries (during the nations' 'gestation' years) were finance, energy, intelligence and military. In later years and to-date, the strategic industries became more with the inclusion of aerospace and agriculture. These industries are always accorded the highest priority and the capital intensity of Government participation in them is considered an issue of national integrity that cannot be compromised and that should be handled with adeptness, probity, accountability and as transparent as may be considered necessary. Whenever any strategic industry is threatened in any way, the nation concerned is usually prepared even to go to war, as history has evidenced over many generations to-date.

    In developing nations, like Nigeria, strategic industries are finance, Iron and Steel, Coal, energy, oil and gas, military, agriculture, transportation and communication.

    Much as the reality of global information village is considered a positive trend for all nations, its impact on communities in many developing nations has certain compounding features. This is particularly so inasmuch as most still lack necessary Synergy of Infrastructure, Logistics and Technology, the perspective essence of strategic industries for any nation.

    Whenever an industry considered strategic for any nation is being discouraged under the guise of market globalisation or for whatever other reason, the motive has to be seen as dishonest. This is the reality faced by Nigeria's iron and steel industry, Nigerian government and SOLGAS.

    SOLGAS and many other companies desire to actively participate in exploring and developing the potential of Nigeria's gas resources in line with the positively acclaimed initiative of the Obasanjo administration to shift the nation's revenue base from oil to gas and agriculture.

    SOLGAS, unlike its competitors in the gas industry, however, is also enticing Nigerian government by claiming to be ready, willing and able to help re-invigorate Ajaokuta Steel Plant by introducing a 'fast melt' technology that is to be made viable by creating a unique 'zero gas' situation in Nigeria's gas industry and deploying this to minimize plant energy costs.

    Furthermore, SOLGAS claims that many or all of the gas stripping plants and storages within the network would be jointly-owned by the individual state governments involved and Ajaokuta Steel Company, thereby increasing the overall revenue potential of all the proprietors, SOLGAS inclusive.

    What is immediately obvious from this, if successful, is that SOLGAS would then become a monopolistic strategic player not only in Nigeria's gas industry as a gas producer and in the energy industry as an Independent Power Producer (IPP), but also in Nigeria's iron and steel industry as a major Convertible Preference Shareholder of the Ajaokuta Steel proposed conglomerate. In the developed nation where SOLGAS associates came from, such a situation would be handed over to the Monopoly Commission to look into.

    Another, and more dangerous aspect of this to Nigeria's economic growth, is the opportunity cost of relegating the strategic potential of the nation's coal industry. In most other countries worldwide, coal industry is now being encouraged and vigorously promoted, especially since the once-acclaimed nuclear power plant technology is now becoming increasingly unsafe - the case of Chernobyl was an example.

    Coal, everywhere in the world, is used as a cost-effective fuel (domestic as well as industrial) and also as a cost-effective reducing agent in industrial processes (especially Iron and Steel making and Cement production, to mention a relevant few).

    Coal and iron & steel industries are major determinants of technical and technological know-how/advancement for many nations' economic growth in real terms owing to their contributions to industrial development, especially through engendering varied multiplier-effect small and medium scale entrepreneurships.

    It may even be recalled that Nigeria in the late '90s had an economic plan that indicated the necessity for Nigeria to develop, nationwide, up to 66 viable mini-cement plants.

    It is this cement industry that the SOLGAS deal is, by omission or commission, compelling Nigerian Government to relegate into oblivion!

    If the Government is not paying One Kobo towards the development of Ajaokuta Steel Plant in the SOLGAS deal, as it is being claimed, how is the Ajaokuta Steel Company getting the capital to acquire equity in the various gas stripping plants, storage plants and the IPPs proposed to be developed on its behalf by SOLGAS?

    If the IPPs are as viable as SOLGAS is claiming (through selling electricity to NEPA or Government's recently proposed national power transmission company), why can't the government channel the revenue from such ventures towards developing the iron and steel plant as should be rightly done in a transparent manner, privatised or not?

    If the participating states are genuinely interested in revenue-generation, why can't such states singly or jointly solicit joint venture with interested foreign parties to develop those solid mineral deposits in a manner that ensures invigorated and sustainable revenue generation?

    Nigeria's steel industry was earmarked for development by the federal government in the early '70s with the creation of the defunct National Steel Development Authority (NSDA) and with the assistance of French consultants, SOFRESID who conducted various studies and appraisals particularly on material requirement for developing the industry.

    An integrated plan was eventually approved by the Gowon administration, which also approved Ajaokuta's Preliminary and also Detailed Project Reports, prepared by TiajPromExport (TPE) of defunct USSR.

    In later years, during General Obasanjo's Administration came the development of Aladja Steel Plant and the inland rolling mills in Osogbo, Jos and Katsina.

    The integrated plan, at that time, was prioritised as follows:

    1. TiajPromExport (TPE), as the main Contractor was to bring in LengiProMez et al to supply and install all plant and equipment including technological know-how to cover the entire plant, comprising Coke Ovens, Thermal Power Plant, Machine. Shop, Rolling Mills, Sintering Plant, Blast Furnace, etc as an integrated full-fledged steel plant, like those already built by same Contractors in Algeria, Egypt and India. Ajaokuta's first phase of 1.3 million tonnes, yearly had to also accommodate the billet needs of all the inland rolling mills and some stock needs of Aladja Plant.

    II. The rail line from Itakpe to Warri, the dredging of Onne Port and other infrastructure development were to be concurrently undertaken within specified project periods to enable the timely commissioning of Ajaokuta plant. These were also to ensure the readiness of the vital logistic network to sustain the entire industry, which included the then-proposed Aladja Steel Plant and inland rolling mills.

    III. Extensive training programmes to develop needed skills and other human resources were to be conducted in Zaporodje, Ukraine, and also in collaboration with Steel Authority of India in different Indian Steel Plants such as in Bhilai, Roukella and Dugapur. Even some specialised programmes were carried out in Ranchi with .MECON.

    IV. The beneficiation of Itakpe haematite ore into almost magnetite quality was to be embarked upon in order to be assured of high-yield aggregate from the Sintering Plant into the Blast Furnace. It must be noted that Itakpe ore beneficiation was not even contemplated for use in Aladja's Direct-reduction process, a technology yet unproven to be viable even in Germany where it was developed. It was much later when the bitter pill of forex drain from pellet importation was swallowed that Aladja process had to be adapted to accept the beneficiated ore, albeit at a considerable loss in yield.

    V. Finally, the commissioning of Ajaokuta Steel Plant was to be based on a backward integration strategy of starting with 100% imported billets to ease norms-development of the mills for varied gestation yields of the blast furnace before phasing out billet importation necessity.

    This entire plan was frustrated and eventually stifled to death, by omission. and commission, by federal government policies over a period of two and a half decades:

    The ill-timed, lopsided and politically-motivated development of Aladja Steel plant and the inland rolling mills at Osogbo, Jos and Katsina instead of, first, concentrating upon and completing all infrastructure and logistic network for enabling the entire industry in conformity with the integrated plan contributed to frustrating the plan.

    So did the deliberate dismantling of the integrated concept of the Ajaokuta Steel project by, first, separating some aspects (particularly of the civil works) from the TPE Contract to contractors from other countries considered more favourable and well suited to Western interests.

    In later years, the dismantling of the integrated concept was further worsened by systematic, diversified continual exploitation of various completed parts of Ajaokuta plant (such as Oxygen plant, Machine Shop and others) to an extent that diffused that integrated concept to a state of total loss of strategic focus.

    The invigorated importation of billets by privileged groups to exploit the rolling mills in a value-depleting manner, supported with all kinds of inept conversion formulae out of consonance with the economic viability of the plant. Indeed, this billet importation policy was what gradually constructed a 'national coffin' for Ajaokuta Steel plant whose commissioning would have eventually killed the moneymaking billet importation drives of the privileged groups. This billet importation policy also caused the subjugation of Nigeria's steel professionals who could only depend on meagre and irregular earnings in contrast to the maximised return-on investment being inequitably reaped by the billet importing privileged groups.

    Thus it can be seen that this unpatriotic game plan blurred the view of the average Nigerian and depleted the faith of most in the concept of Ajaokuta, which by then was increasingly being regarded a white elephant that might never see the light of day.

    Much more damaging, perhaps, is that the unfortunate game plan also blinded the perspective of various communities (especially in the states directly involved) from the positive impact towards progress that Ajaokuta Steel Plant should have on their daily lives and quality of life in general.

    With the developing world still bracing itself for the implications of GATS (World Trade Organisation's General Agreements on 1-1rade in Services) on the chances for societally-harmonious economic growth of their communities, issues of strategic projects of developmental nature like Ajaokuta need very careful and in-depth considerations which should be kept outside the realm of demagogues, frivolous arbitrage profiteers and capital market speculators.

    Ajaokuta Steel Plant and Itakpe Ore Plant both form the real 'spinal cord' of Nigeria's basic industrial development and must be accorded that recognition so as not to blur the prospects of their multiplier-effects particularly in Nigeria's service industries that may be blighted by GATS.

    It should be noted that GATS is aimed at increasing trade in services globally without necessarily ensuring social equity or elevated quality of life as have already been achieved in developed economies where Synergy of Infrastructure, Logistics & Technology (SILT) is prevalent, continually sustained and geared for enhancement.

    Hence, any project like Ajaokuta Steel Plant, which directly impacts on the development of infrastructure, logistics and technology in a nation like Nigeria, which still lacks synergy of these contributors to economic growth, is bound to have many services of relevance to its viability subjugated by GATS, if structurally defective in its national operating environment.

    Indeed, Ajaokuta is fast. becoming a Nigerian classic case in which domestic sovereignty is not the crucial issue but that public interest for sustainable economic growth is being overridden by objectives that further trade between IPPs (Independent Power Producers) and NEPA or the proposed national power-transmission company, irrespective of where IPP related services (including know-how, human resource deployment, etc) are categorised in relation to Nigeria's Schedule of Specific Commitments under GATS.

    The present administration should seriously consider the development of Ajaokuta Steel Plant as an issue of national integrity that should never be compromised by shelving government responsibility under the guise of privatisation or misguided globalisation. The SOLGAS and similar deals have enormous regrettable inter-generational consequences for all concerned. The end does not justify the means in this particular case of Ajaokuta Steel Plant vis-a-vis Nigeria's industrial future.

    Godwin A. Adeogba, a steel engineer and research analyst wrote from Abuja

     

    ********************************************************************************* +

    Historical Background of Steel Industry in Nigeria

    Aminu Mohammed
     

    The realisation by the government that steel is the bedrock of industrialisation made the country to restructure its priorities in the 60's. The history of the steel industry in Nigeria dates back to 1958 when the first market surveys on the sub-sector were commissioned.

    Between 1962 and 1983 the country passed through some important milestones which were known as the development plans. The steel project finally took off in the 80's during the fourth development plan when the Jos, Katsina, Oshogbo and the Delta Steel/Rolling Mills were all commissioned except Ajaokuta.

    The commissioning of these projects were results of several feasibility studies carried out by foreign experts beginning from 1970. In 1970 Tiajpromexport of the former USSR was commissioned to undertake geological surveys in anticipation for the steel/projects and a year later the National Steel/Development Authority under decree 19 to coordinate steel/projects in the country was established.

    The contract for the Ajaokuta Steel/Company was finally awarded in 1979 during the Alhaji Shehu Shagari administration after reports on the selection of the site was accepted by the Gowon administration in 1975 for the company to produce a blast furnace based steel plant.

    However, with the exception of Ajaokuta, other steel companies such as Delta, Katsina, Jos and Oshogbo were all being commissioned over two decades ago. The intention of government to give priority to the industrial sector was to support other sectors such as energy and agriculture which were the major sources of Nigeria's economic growth in the 50's and 0's.

    There was a sluggish growth of the economy beginning from the 60's coupled with limited foreign exchange earnings from exports and as cocoa and cotton. This however informed the vigorous insurance policy in the industrial sector along with other projects like pulp and paper mills, automobile assembly plants, machine tools, cement factories, fertilizer plants all in the public sector.

    But then, about half a century has passed with some of these projects yet to see the light of the day. The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited has become a political issue with successive government with Little or nothing to complete and commission this vital projects which has gulped billions of naira without producing a single product.

    Inspite of the huge amount of money so far spent on the Ajaokuta project, the present administration has been brainwashed that the steel project is no longer viable and owned only be a waste.

    Perhaps, the government, working on the IMF/World Bank assertion has now decided to shift attention from steel production to power generation situation experts believe will mark the end of a once good dream to industrialise Nigeria.

    The Ajaokuta Steel Company unlike its counterpart in Delta in an integrated blast furnace producer of bars, shapes and medium structural with planned capacity of 1.3 million tonnes per year. However, the estimated tonnes per year from Delta and Ajaokuta is 2.2 million tonnes while the three satellite inland rolling mills located at Oshogbo, Katsina and Jos were expected to produce 210,000 tonnes per year. Their major products are, bars and billets supplied by Delta Steel.

    As at 1987, the federal government had spent over five billion naira on the Ajaokuta, Delta, Jos, Katsina and Oshogbo projects while well out the same amount has been expended between 1988 and 1998.

    Government has always claimed that the steel industry is facing problems because of the economic downturn brought about by the drastic drop in world oil prices. Again, authorities claim that the steel industry is undergoing through a tremendous upheaval worldwide but critics believe the problem is lack of political will by the successive regimes.

    Critics argue that while Asia is gradually taking over the technology market globally, African countries have refused to be over dependent on western countries through their IMF/World Bank projects which further compound African problems.

    Recently, the IMF/World Bank stooges evaluated the Ajaokuta project and concluded that it is not liable. According to their reports, the steel project showed be converted to power generation. Based on this western report, the federal government signed an agreement with an American energy firm SOLGAS which is to takeover the affairs of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited.

    There are those who see this unpatriotic act by the government as mortgaging Nigeria's technology to the Americans who have insisted long before now that Ajaokuta Steel is no longer fashionable. The agreement with SOLGAS has therefore raised a lot of questions from experts who believe the new firm has no technical expertise and the financial where withal to complete the Ajaokuta project.

    Most experts believe that there are a lot in the contract than meets the eye. Another important aspect is the issue of the Russians who have been handling the contract since 1979. What will be their position now in this arrangement? Can the Americans work side by side with the Russians? Will the Russians surrender their technological expertise? And most importantly, will the IMF/World Bank be happy to see the Russians in Ajaokuta without feeling threatened?

    Whatever happens, the dream of Nigeria to have a reliable steel industry which can compete with its counterparts worldwide is still going to remain an illusion. It is sad that what began with a lot of zeal and hope is now becoming yet another disaster. The quest to catch up with the Asian Tigers seems not feasible.

    Nigeria will continue to remain a jumping ground for western products. Africa has been a guinea pig where any new product no matter its negative effects on the African economy is shipped to the continent.

    The Ajaokuta Steel project which has been still-born may still remain still-born just because our leaders have lost foresight and have become collaborators of the IMF/World Bank. The Ajaokuta steel project is a necessity.

    If Asian countries like Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, India and a host of others can go industrialised why not the so-called African giant? I believe, Alhaji Shehu Shagari must be a sad man today seeing his pet project going down the drain.

    ******************************************************************************** +

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