The Senate has asked the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, expedite action towards the completion of the Ajaokuta steel complex
It also appealed to Ministry of Transport to complete the Ajaokuta-Okaba rail line to facilitate the operations of the Ajaokuta steel plant.
These are some of the resolutions adopted by the lawmakers on Tuesday.
The resolutions were sequel to the deliberation of a motion titled: the Ajaokuta steel company: A panacea to the diversification of the Nigerian economy, sponsored by Yakubu Oseni.
The Senate’s call for the completion of the steel plant is one of many as both individual and civic groups have, over the years, emphasised the importance for the plant to Nigeria’s economy.
The Ajaokuta steel company in Kogi State was envisaged to serve as the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialisation.
The idea of having a steel industry was conceived in 1958 by the federal government. Preliminary market studies were carried out and studies were initially directed towards the feasibility of establishing rolling mills.
However, because of the growing awareness of the availability of iron ore in Agbaja, Udi and other areas of the country, emphasis later shifted to establishing an integrated steel plant.
The Ajaokuta steel had reached 98 per cent completion as far back as 1994 but not produced a single steel till date after it was abandoned. It has the capacity to become a major producer of industrial machinery, auto-electrical spare-parts, shipbuilding, railways and carriages.
A bill seeking $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to fund the completion of the plant was passed by the eight Senate.
It is, however, one of the many bills from the eight assembly rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Buhari had said his reason for rejecting the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Fund Bill is that appropriating $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account is not ”the best strategic option for Nigeria at this time of budgetary constraints, and the nation cannot afford to commit such an amount amid competing priorities.”
He also said the bill which seeks to make an appropriation of revenues to fund public expenditure, should be consolidated in the annual Appropriation Act, “such that these proposals pass through the traditional scrutiny that budget proposals are subjected to by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Assembly.”
Leading Tuesday’s debate, Mr Oseni noted that a working steel plant is always the bedrock of industrialisation for any developing nation hence of the pillars of the Nigerian Industrial Plan (NRIP) launched in 2014.
Employment generation for the first phase commissioning of the steel plant will yield 10,000 direct technical staff and 500,000 indirect jobs, he said.
He said without developing a steel industry, Nigeria will continue to export raw steel at a very cheap price and import the finished steel and allied products at exorbitant prices as it is with oil.
“Nigeria imports over N2.3 billion of steel and allied products every year. Our steel industry will, therefore, be a tangible foreign exchange and saver for our fragile economy.
“A completed Ajaokuta Steel Plant in no doubt will present huge benefits to our bid for common diversification. It will be a huge foreign exchange earner and saver for the country and employment generation thereby help greatly in reducing the current wave of youth unrest, kidnapping, and banditry in the country,” he said.
While he commended the president for inaugurating a presidential committee on the implementation of the steel plant, he urged the panel to commence work.
The Senate thereafter urged the Senate leadership and the Committee on Solid Minerals and Steel Development to undertake an assessment oversight on the complex after the COVID-19 lockdown.