By Emmanuel Mogbede
Lokoja, July 24, 2020 Mr Augustus Nkechika, Sole Administrator of the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO), Itakpe, on Friday appealed to the Federal Government to properly equip the company to enable it to discharge it mandates effectively.
He made the appeal in Itakpe when Mr Olamilekan Adegbite, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, and members of the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals and Metallurgy visited the company to inspect its facilities.
Nkechika said resuscitating Ajaokuta Steel Company without paying desired attention to NIOMCO would amount to attempting to move a vehicle without an engine.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NIOMCO’s mandate to provide basic raw materials for iron and steel production makes it strategic to the country.
The company is expected to supply Ajaokuta Steel Company with 2.15 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate and other raw materials.
Nkechika stressed the need to fully complete the rehabilitation of the company’s plants and acquire additional mining equipment before the full resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company by the Federal Government.
“This is so because to meet the first phase of Ajaokuta Steel Company’s production level alone, NIOMCO should produce and process seven million tonnes of raw iron ore annually.
“In the process, about 28 million tonnes of waste has to be removed to expose iron ore for extraction.
“This in practical terms means that for NIOMCO to sustain uninterrupted production of steel by Ajaokuta Steel Company for at least 15 years to 20 years, it has to stockpile sufficient amounts of iron concentrate,” he said.
Nkechika added that this must be at both Itakpe and Ajaokuta ends to serve as buffers in the event of temporary stoppage of haulage or production of concentrate.
He added that this was the reason NIOMCO must begin production of concentrate well ahead of commencement of production of steel at Ajaokuta Steel Company.
He added that such effort would not only increase the country’s revenue profile and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but would make it one of the world’s most industrialised countries.
Nkechika said the visit of the minister and members of the committee, showed how important NIOMCO was to the Federal Government as a catalyst in the development of the country’s iron and steel sector.
Adegbite, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, in his response, said the Federal Government had seen NIOMCO and Ajaokuta Steel Company as a conjoined-twin that could not be separated.
He added that the technical audit that was being planned for Ajaokuta Steel Company by the Federal Government would also be done at NIOMCO.
The minister re-emphasised that the Federal Government would rely on money that was pledged by Russians and Afrexim bank to fix both Ajaokuta Steel Complex and NIOMCO.
Adegbite said that both the Executive and the Legislature would ensure that Ajaokuta Steel Company was resuscitated and became operational before long.
He added that both government arms were focused to ensure that the complex was resuscitated.
“We have the same purpose and we are focused that this project is delivered to the benefit of Nigerians, the people of Kogi and to the glory of God,” he said.
He commended members of the committee for their encouragement and support, adding that there was a bright future for Nigerians when the complex became resuscitated and in full capacity production.
The minister explained that although Federal Government’s effort to resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel Company was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the process was still on.
He said the company was of serious concern to the Federal Government, adding that its resolution to resuscitate it was unshaken.
Sen. Tanko Al-Makura, the committee Chairman, said it was in the state on a mission to ascertain the situation of things at Ajaokuta Steel Company and NIOMCO.
Al-Makura, the immediate past Governor of Nasarawa State, said the National Assembly was ready to cooperate with the executive arm in making the steel company fully operational again.
“We are here to look at what is on ground and to see the measures that have been taken and progress made to resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel Company, so we will know the next steps to take,” he said.
NAN reports that the Federal Government is banking on Russians to resuscitate Ajaokuta Steel Complex because they were its original builders.
Russians are pledging 450 million U.S. dollars while Afrexim Bank is pledging one billion U.S. dollars, totaling 1.45 billion U.S. dollars to fix Ajaokuta and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO).
NAN further reports that the Ajaokuta complex which is on 24,000 hectares of land in Ajaokuta, 38 kilometres from Lokoja the Kogi capital is tagged “Bedrock of Nigeria’s Industrialisation”.
The complex which has achieved more than 90 per cent completion is designed to produce iron and liquid steel from mines at Itakpe, in Kogi, some 52km from Ajaokuta.
The complex is meant to generate important upstream and downstream industrial and economic activities that are critical to the industrialisation of Nigeria.
The complex, conceived in 1976, was aimed at establishing a metallurgical process plant and engineering complex with other facilities.
By Emmanuel Mogbede