The Federal Government has intensified efforts at ensuring that sections of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited start production before the end of 2019, Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, has said.
Adegbite said this at a meeting with Russian Ambassador, Alexey Shebarshir, in Abuja on Tuesday.
Russia is ready to partner the Federal Government to revamp the ailing company, the Russian envoy declared at the meeting.
The minister also informed the ambassador that Nigeria would welcome Russia’s collaboration in the quest to resuscitate the company.
He said, “The government is ready to embrace any collaboration aimed at revitalizing the steel industry to operate in full capacity.
“The Federal Government is working round the clock to ensure that sections of the company start production before the end of the year,” Adegbite said.
He added that the revitalization of Ajaokuta Steel was of utmost concern to the present administration.
Adegbite explained that the Federal Government did not deliberately abandon the company “but owing to some legal encumbrances, the company had not been producing optimally”.
The minister disclosed that the Federal Government had been expending huge sums of money to ensure that assets at the Ajaokuta Steel Complex were not vandalized.
According to him, plans were underway to engage relevant companies on meaningful discussions with a view to employing strategic approaches towards revamping the company.
He said that by the time Ajaokuta Steel starts producing at full capacity, the company would become the hub of industrialization in Africa.
The Russian Ambassador, Shebarshir, expressed his country’s readiness to partner with Nigeria in resuscitating Ajaokuta Steel Company.
He specifically pointed out that Russia was interested in rebuilding infrastructure and overhauling of the company’s plants.
However, the ambassador said, there was a need for the Federal Government to protect private investors who are interested in turning around the company for maximum production.
Deputy Head of Mission, Trade and Economic Affairs, Valery Shaposhnikov, who was part of the ambassador’s team, said that they had already carried out an ‘on the spot analysis’ of the challenges militating against the smooth operation of the company.
Shaposhnikov called for more engagement between the Federal Government and stakeholders so as to fashion out the best ways to tackle the issues hindering the company’s operations.
He reiterated Russia’s readiness to harness the potential of steel to drive industrialization in Nigeria.