FGN urged to prioritise NMDC’s funding for speedy steel sector devt
A call has gone out to the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to prioritise funding for the National Metallurgical Development Centre (NMDC), Jos for speedy development of the metal sector that would enable the country to realise its dream of becoming industrialised.
Director-General and Chief Executive Office Prof. Linus Asuquo who made the call while having an interactive session with newsmen from select media houses in Abuja said research, though capital intensive, remains the gateway through which the potentials of the country’s rich solid mineral resources could be enhanced for meaningful development, hence all efforts should be made to ensure that it does not suffer due to lack of funds.
Engr Asuquo noted that with adequate funding of the centre and strong commitment on the part of stakeholders, the country’s steel sector will experience the desired locally spurred development and attract enough investment in the overall interest of the economy.
“If we have adequate funding and we pay attention to what we are doing properly, giving it a priority, we should be expecting a whole lot of development in the country,” Engr Asuquo said.
Asuquo, however, admitted that under the present administration in the country the centre had received significant attention that led to some improvement in the funding of the centre, unlike the total neglect it suffered over the years.
According to him, with the improvement in funding, the centre under his watch has witnessed some transformational milestones, ranging from restructuring and repositioning of the centre to capacity building, and acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment among others.
He said, “This month is July. I was appointed in July 2018 as the DG of National Metallurgical Development Centre. So this month makes it four good years that I have been in charge in that place.
“At assumption, I saw that the place was almost like an abandoned place; it was a moribund in terms of facilities, in terms of infrastructure. So, it was a challenge for me in terms of infrastructure development, institutional and human building.
“So, there was need to renovate some of the buildings to give a conducive ambience for research and development to thrive at the centre, which we did,” he said.
The DG also said the electricity situation of the centre was so pathetic and security was another worrisome factor in addition to the poor and outdated laboratory equipment, but as soon as he settled down all that was addressed with solar power installed and ultra-modern equipment provided in all the testing laboratories.
“There was need to find the state of the art equipment to do meaningful research, and we were able to procure state of the art equipment for research and development. And I’m pleased to inform you that right now NMDC, even though not sufficient because research and development is capital intensive, we have now a set of research equipments for analysis, to analyse these minerals that we have,” he said.
He also pointed out that part of the reason for the incessant building collapse cases being reported in the country was because materials used for the building in most cases were not properly analysed to determine their quality, a task he believes NMDC is now poised to carry out.
The veteran also urged the federal authorities never to discard the idea of reviving the Ajaokuta Steel Company and make it work, adding that he had noticed that a lot of politics is being played around the project which according to him still remains the key to Nigeria’s industrialisation.
According to him, without Ajaokuta being operationalised, the impact of the centre would not be felt as much as it ought to be in the sector, because research and development is about raw materials that are to be refined in-country for sustainable development.
“Let me say this and I repeat many times. We should not play with Ajaokuta steel company. We should not do it. I think a lot of politics have been played on this over the years. If you know the quantum metals imported into this country, then you know where we are. We are spending billions of naira to import metals.
“Now consider the railways that we are constructing; all the metals are imported here, but if we have Ajaokuta Steel company working on, I don’t think we would have been importing all these metals; we would have helped our economy and created more employment for our people and there would be skill acquisition and so on and so forth. The benefits are so numerals that I cannot count,” Prof. Asuquo said.
On the argument that has been on in recent times that the steel mill is already outdated and hence there is no need to spend more money on it, the expert said those saying such a thing are not informed about it.
According to him, the blast furnace model is even what some of the notable steel producing nation’s around the world such as Russia and India are using to produce their metals.
“Russia cannot do without blast furnace, India cannot do without it. I was in India in the year 2000 and India in 2000 was producing 100 million tonnes of steel in the year.
“Which method were they using? People just sit down at home to criticise, saying it’s outdated; what are the new methods that you can produce iron from iron ore, except the blast furnace,” he said.
He said even the coal that some people say nobody uses again, China and India are using it, adding that considering the amount of money already expended on Ajaokuta, scraping it would amount to a collosal waste and would be suicidal for the country.
He suggested that Ajaokuta could even be modularised and run section by section if it happens the original set is found outdated or too complex to bring to life at once.