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After Nigeria’s attainment of Independence in 1960, we have had various industrial and economic development plans, designed for the purpose of transforming the country into an industrialized nation that would become a force to reckon with in the global economy.
Sadly, despite the availability of the required natural resources, successive governments failed to make the dream for Nigeria’s industrialization a reality. Our desire to become an industrialized country remains a pipedream because
we refused to give maximum priorityto the advancement of the steel sector via the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex (ASCO), which was conceived and envisioned as a pivotal element for Nigeria’s industrialization.
That we have not been able to make ASCO come to life, almost forty years after it was initiated, knowing full well that steel is the heartbeat of any national development plan for industrialization, to me, clearly shows how unserious we are as an independent nation.
We planned to be among the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020, but we continued to pay lip-service to steel matters as if we don’t know that the capability to produce steel aids industrial growth through which such a target
could easily be achieved.
ASCO appears to have indeed become the allegory for the failures that define Nigeria in different areas of our existence as a country.
We allowed corruption, lack of political will, international conspiracy and policy summersaults/ inconsistencies to continue to tie down the completion of a project capable of positioning Nigeria strategically on the world map of steel
production, thereby guaranteeing the realization of our dream for industrialization.
Virtually all the nations that are playing big globally have enhanced capacities for steel production.
Even those that do not have any of the key mineral inputs needed for steel making have over the years developed the capacity to produce steel. Japan and SouthKorea, for instance, have no mineral resource for iron and steel, but
they rank among the world top ten countries in steel production.
On the contrary, Nigeria that is blessed with all the raw materials (iron ore, coal, natural gas and limestone) needed for the manufacture of steel is nowhere to be the found in the global chart of steel production.
Nigeria, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is the 12th largest iron ore resource country in the world. So, to produce steel, which is used in various applications around the world (engineering/ construction, manufacturing
of cars, ships, vehicle amour and general machinery), we do not have to import the raw materials.
We have them in abundance! Ajaokuta Steel is unarguably the largest integrated steel complex in the sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet, we are unable to take the lead in steel production in Africa even in our illusory claim of being the giant of the continent. South Africa and Egypt produced 6.1 and 5.0 million tons of steel respectively in 2016 based on data provided by the World Steel Association (WSA).
While South Africa is the 22nd on the list of countries by steel production, Egypt is the 27th. Nigeria did not make the list because only countries with annual production of crude steel of at least 2 million metric tons were included.
China, the world’s largest steel producer topped the chart with a production of 808.4 million metric tons which represents about 50 per cent of the global steel output for 2016. Japan and India produced 104.8 and 95.6 million metric tons of crude steel to maintain the 2nd and 3rd position on the list respectively.
China and India fall in the category of Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs). They were nowhere in terms of steel production in the 19th century and at the start of the 20th century. But they worked hard to advance their steel
industries and today they have overtaken even the G8 (forum for the world’s major highly industrialized countries) members like US, Britain and Germany that were hitherto leading the pack in the manufacture of steel. Because China and India were determined to belong to the industrialized economies of the world, no international conspiracy could stop them from undergoing industrial and economic reforms that were anchored on steel development. Same applies to South Africa which is the 6th world largest producer of iron ore (the main ingredient for steelmaking)
and the only African country regarded as an industrialized nation classified under the NICs. Just like China and India, South Africa is among the G20, an international forum for governments of 20 major economies of the world and the G8+5 group (the original G8 members plus five NICs).
While ASCO was left to wallow in total neglect, about N6 trillion is spent annually on steel importation as disclosed recently by Engr. Suleiman Umar, the Assistant General Manager (New Initiatives) and Special Adviser Tech-