The revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company in Ajaokuta, Kogi State, made the list of top concerns discussed at the North Central zonal public hearing for constitution review in Lokoja.
For over two decades, plans and committees set up to look into the moribund steel mill, whose revival promises economic breakthrough, have yielded no results.
The most recent of the government’s interventions is the constitution of a presidential project implementation team for the Ajaokuta Steel Mill in 2020.
According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the Ajaokuta steel project would be resuscitated with funding from Afrexim Bank and the Russian Export Centre.
The Russian government and Afreximbank would provide up to US$1.46 billion to fund the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, with US$1 billion coming from African Export-Import Bank and US$460 million from the Russian Export Centre.
While many have advised that the government should sell-off the facility to private investors, some others believe that it can be revived with the right partnership.
However, at the public hearing held on Tuesday and Wednesday, traditional rulers, socio-cultural groups and pressure groups lamented the neglect of the viable company and suggested how the constitution review can help salvage its situation.
For Simon Ujah, a traditional leader, the steel mill was abandoned because of its location in the North Central region, a region disadvantaged by the 1999 Constitution.
“The abandoned Ajaoluka is abandoned because of the location. Because it is in the north-central. Ajaoluka has over 25 mills and workshops. It was commissioned by General Ibrahim Babangida, who is from Niger State. Others couldn’t continue because of the location.”
Mr Ujah suggested that the state be given powers to legislate on matters like the steel company, saying that the Presidential Committee set-up has not achieved anything.
The company, if revived, according to the monarch, will create over 45,000 jobs.
Also, a member of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Kogi state chapter, Mahmud Ismaila, while presenting the group’s memorandum, said the unemployment rate in the country would have been less if moribund companies like the steel mill were revived.
He also recommended that the management of railways be ceded to the state government in his presentation.
On Wednesday, a socio-cultural group canvassing the creation of Ajaokuta East local government, led by Abdulmumin Ogejah, called for the early resuscitation of the mill.
“We join millions of Nigerians calling for the early resuscitation and completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company to take the country out of her economic doldrums in addition to the employment opportunity it will offer to the teeming youth of the country to avert youth restiveness as experienced recently.
“In this case, all administrative bottle-necks usually associated with ministries be removed and if possible, the steel company should be put directly under the presidency, for effective monitoring of the project,” Mr Ogejah said.
However, in an interview with journalists on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Lokoja Centre of the constitution review exercise and member of the federal House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, said the 9th assembly was determined to look into all the yearnings of people.
He promised that the exercise will not end on paper as previous reviews carried out under past administrations.
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