No longer business as usual

What played out on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday, 1st March, 2018 became so evident that it’s no more business as usual, with the reawakening of the Lower Chamber and indeed the National Assembly, which serves as nerves of democracy, to bring about the drastic paradigm shift into governance in Nigeria. I was so much concerned that the passionate debate which engulfed the Lower Chamber through the sectoral platform would have provided both arms of government to restrategise and reach a conclusion on how best to get Nigeria out of the deepened economic recession without much ado and theoretical postulations that the economy is growing without commensurate result on heightening joblessness and poverty in the land. As observed by some of the Legislators who spoke during the prolonged debate on the boycott of the sectoral debate on Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, located in Kogi State, millions of jobs are locked up at the upstream, mid-stream and downstream of the massive steel technology based industry which has been in comatose over the past 35 years. One wonders who counsels the power that be to continue frustrating an assets that could lift the country into stardom overnight? This parochial and unpatriotic attitude must change and it must be now! Of course, I got the hint from the grapevine on Wednesday (eve of the sectoral debate) night that both Ministers supervising Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals would not be coming and prompt response of the amiable and patriotic Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who has in recent times warm himself into my heart, through some of his fearless and strategic exercise of his leadership role, to intervene in moving the country to the next level, despite all odds. I knew something good is around the corner with his historic visit to Ajaokuta, though I never believed that the fierce war brewing between the Legislature and Executive will expose those who are rooting for the worse economic doom for this country will show up so soon. Many thanks to all members of the House who buried their party affiliations and self interests for this all important socio-economic revival.

As noted by Hon. Mohammed Bago, the battle line which he portends has been drawn between both arms, should be sustained until Ajaokuta is revived. No more no less. That is the spirit of revolution that will prove to the whole world that the crops of youth-dominated House of Representatives and National Assembly are neither pushovers nor rubber stamp institution! I like the passion and the vigour, the labour of our heroes past, shall and must never be in vain, dear Compatriots! Why this wickedness against out Fatherland, why subjecting and aggravating the sufferings of Nigerian youths who are skilled and semi-skilled, women and those who would have been gainfully employed and boost their capacities while working in Ajaokuta? This is no more capitalism that we desire, it is no longer the imperialist enslavement but political and self-inflicted evil from our kinsmen (political elites). As reiterated by virtually all the experts and activists invited by the leadership of the House to share their thoughts on Ajaokuta and proffer solution to the age long plague on the steel sector, those political elites are indirectly responsible for the stripping of our commonwealth and assets which were deliberately locked down in Ajaokuta!

As mentioned in my report: the same cabal is frustrating already negotiated 20 year tenure, $1.5 billion loan facility, at 2percent interest rate! But this is the same country where successive governments get multi-billion naira loans which can’t be accounted for till date.

Bello Itopa, National President of Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ISSSAN) in his address to the Speaker during his working visit to Ajaokuta, decried unpalatable situation in the sector especially with three failed and unsuccessful “concessioning marred with destruction, cannibalisation and illegal removal of equipments under the guise of borrow and un-returned, which eventually landed in arbitration/mediation. The failure of these three concessioning was as a result of deadly conspiracy and planned controversies.”

Without mixing words, the House can use the following recommendations as working tool:

Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited should be completed and commissioned. Following the expiration of the performance guarantee test period and successful operation of the plant before going into any form of privatization. ASCL is too strategic and capital intensive to be left solely in the hand of private sector. It will be a disservice to the Nation and the generation yet unborn.

All the needed both internal and external infrastructure should be put in place as a matter of urgency. These include: Rail lines from Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri-Okene-Ajaokuta dual carriage road should be rehabilitated.

Access roads and rails to raw material location

Dredging of water ways.

The management of ASP should be encouraged to put into operation the completed units of the plant by creating enabling environment and providing the required fund. Out of 43 component units, 40 units are completed. This, in one way or the other enhance revenue and employment generation and also assist FGN in diversification of her economic policy and poverty alleviation.

The Original Builder of Ajaokuta Steel Project should be invited and renegotiate with, by the FGN, to complete the remaining 2percent (ie the Blast Furnace, the Coke Oven and the Steel Making Shop) of the project and commission it.

The staff of the company (ASCL) should be motivated and encouraged by putting them in an attractive and befitting salary structure.

ASP should be a beneficiary of yearly capital allocation in the budget of Nigeria.

Security wise, Ajaokuta Steel Company should be jealously protected from destructive elements because it is one of the Nigeria National and reliable assets.