The news heralding the passage of the Bill by the Senate, establishing the Steel University, Ajaokuta in Kogi Central, Kogi state is a welcome idea and good news to the people.
No doubt the Steel University, Ajaokuta (SUA) will enhance greater impact on the educational system of the area and the country at large, especially at a time that steel industries have become the nucleaus for economic and political power for nations. It has, as submitted by the lawmaker representing Kogi Central, Senator Yakubu Oseni, many advantages including a fertile ground for incubation of ideas, skills and technology in the 21st century.
That the establishment of the SUA will assist in the eventual resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company should however be of concern and worry to us. It is important to take a critical look at this development against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to revive the steel industry.
No doubt, events in the last five years of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari hav shown positive signs with less actions. Nigerian have clear evidences that for two years running, the promise by the Federal Government has remain more in the table that at the site. It is even worrisome to note that at present Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited has less vote than Itakpe Iron Ore Mining Company, with a gap of over eight hundred million naira. Say with what will a steel company of international standards, with the expectation to revolutionize the economy hub of Nigeria, Africa and the world at large, do with a pantry N200m as a running cost compared to a subsidiary Iron Ore Mining Company with a budget of over N2.3b.
Now this brings to mind the question of funding for the new SUA. How does the Federal Government intend to fund the university in the midst of neglect of the parent body, that is the steel complex? Will the funding for the new SUA be available through the instrumentality of a working and viable steel industry? When will there be the political will to revive the steel company as promised by this government and those before it? Did the Sen. Yakubu Oseni-led Bill provide for both the revival of the steel company and the university, as twin legislation? And more important, where will the government have the resources to fund these fatger and son project? So many questions requiring answers.
While not against the establishment of SUA as an economic boost and opening for successor generation of Nigerians, the Senators, Yakubu Iseni, Smart Adeyemi and their colleague should have look at this challenges critically and devote their energies first, at ensuring the resuscitation of the steel company.
It is not in doubt that what we have today is a 75-25 per cent divide on the debate for the revival of the steel industry. It is even more glaring that some sections of the country and political Hawks have worked assidiously against the survival of Ajaokuta Steel Company, and against the will and general interest of the people.
So for the new SUA to work, we must ensure the old ASCON is working. We must ensure adequate resources, through increase in the annual budget and prompt release of funds for the completion of the steel company is done.
The trio of Sen. Oseni, Adeyemi and their colleague from the Kogi East work together and ensure the Federal Government of Nigeria have the political will to revive Ajaokuta Steel Company with the pending visit of the Russian team and the tripatite agreement is reached in earnest.
For the SUA to work, Ajaokuta Steel Company should work. They can only succeed working pari passu as the SUA will be an exercise in futility without the steel company working
- Mohammed Bougei Attah is the National Coordinator, Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative and CSO Coalition for the Revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company of Nigeria.