Two groups of concerned Nigerians advocating for the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited (ASCL), namely Soviet Union Alumni Association of Nigerian Engineers (SOYUZNIK) and the CSOs Coalition for the Revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company have met to appraise the progress made so far on the revitalization of the plant and proffer solutions that will lead to the revival of the steel plant.
The collaborating groups met at the close of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. With Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President Elect, the Buhari administration comes to a close as a new President is expected to be sworn in on May 29, 2023.
A statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday, said the meeting, which held virtually on Saturday May 6, 2023 was facilitated by Engr. Abdallah Mohammed Sanni, a member of SOYUZNIK and moderated by Mohammed Bougei Attah, the National Coordinator of the CSO Coalition for the Revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company.
The meeting, which attracted participants from more than twenty countries, had major stakeholders in attendance including Prof. Kolawale Ogundowole, a veteran member of SOYUZNIK and former President of the Alumni, Engr. Faniyi Fatokun. It also had Dr. Andy Afadapa and various alumni of SOYUZNIK, among others.
The statement further said: “The CSOs group had in attendance Otunba Dele Ajayi-Smith, President of the African Citizen Development Foundation, ACDF, Lagos; Prof. Samaila Mande of the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN; Engr. Dr. Olugbenga Fadaremi and Dr. Suberu Ozigi who joined the interface from Russia.”
Interactive presentations by Engr. Faniyi Fatokun and Dr. Vincent Dogo, a member of the Ajaokuta Presidential Project Implementation Team (APPIT) and Prof. Dr. Kolawole, participants agreed that the Buhari administration which is expected to end May 29, 2023 performed creditably and satisfactorily, judging from the success it achieved within the eight years of his administration.
Participants commended the Buhari administration for bringing to an end, the legal tussle that hindered the progress of the ASCL for over 30 years.
Participants unanimously commended President Buhari for having the political will to intervene in the London arbitration case that saw Nigeria paying-off the judgment debt to the tune of $495m and freeing the steel plant from foreign debt and ownership.
They noted that the constitution of APPIT by the Buhari government is a good development as the Team is strategic in addressing the myriad of problems, internal and external, confronting the revival of ASCL.
Participants urged the incoming administration of Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu to retain the Team as a way to complete their assignment that will lead to the full implementation of ASCL.
The meeting identified the inclusion of a CSO representation in the APPIT as key to the sustenance of the APPIT, adding that it will ensure transparency, guarantee trustworthiness and promote inclusiveness as the CSOs are known as pressure groups that often represents the voice of the people.
The groups therefore urged the government to revisit the earlier request by the CSO Coalition to include a member on the APPIT Committee.
Upon reviewing the policy documents for the operation of the plant, the meeting advised the government to revisit the initial working document prepared by some members of SOYUZNIK that served as the policy drive for the government in the last eight years, adding that the document is believed to have the approval of the Russian government and AFREMIX Bank International, the funding partners.
However a policy brief and new book on “Steel Production and National Development: Strategic Options for the Incoming Administration,” which highlighted key issues in the implementation process and new developments are to be submitted to the incoming administration for review.
The groups called for the constitution of a committee made up of members from SOYUZNIK and CSO Coalition to be saddled with responsibility of receiving reports from the subsequent meeting of the groups for regular update with the government.