A Kogi State delegate at the ongoing National Conference, Hajia Ladi Ibrahim, last week called on the federal government to build a port in Ajaokuta, Kogi State to facilitate movement of raw materials and finished products from the Ajaokuta Steel Company.
Ibrahim, who is the chairman of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), also tasked Abuja on the need to begin proper dredging of the River Niger, so as to build Ajaokuta and Lokoja ports. The project, she said, would also reduce the burden on the roads.
The former Auditor-General of Kogi State said in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos that it has become imperative to have a seaport in Ajaokuta, stressing that “no nation achieved industrialization without its steel industry.”
Ibrahim's assertion may be right but Nigerians are wary of further investment in, or for, the moribund steel mill.
Official corruption has, over the years, held down the Ajaokuta Steel Company and prevented it from operating optimally.
The company was expected to aid the economic transformation of the country, revamp the power sector and facilitate full industrialization of the country.
It was the Russians that facilitated the Ajaokuta steel project, which has gulped $4.6 billion (about N760 billion) of tax payers money. This amount at face value is more than the annual budgets of all the five states in the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria put together and if you consider the time value of money, it is more than enough to finance Nigeria's budget for three years.
Sadly, the Ajakuta Steel Complex today lies in ruins and remains a shadow of its potentials.
The company is an example of how a national leadership that lacks direction can ruin its own nation.
The construction activities for the first phase of the Ajaokuta Steel project started under President Shehu Shagari in 1979 years ago but the plant has not been commissioned 35 years after.
The dredging and construction of a captive river designed for the plant was also marred in corruption as well over $10 billion was expended without even a bucket of sad dredged or a forklift acquired.
Everyone claims that this project is vital to the industrialization of Nigeria yet no one has been held responsible for the failure of this monumental project.
Ajaokuta Steel Company has remained a victim of the corruption that is ravaging the entire country and it calls for concern that a project that began almost 40 years ago will remain comatose as a result of corruption.
The steel company is believed to have the capacity of creating over two million jobs yet we daily lament the lack of jobs for our teeming youths.
I feel diminished as a Nigerian each time I remember the story of Ajaokuta Steel Company.
Horrible public utilities, lax security, terrorist attacks, smuggling, disgruntled youths and unbridled looting of the public treasury have become the hallmarks of our democracy.
What else could remind us of how lowly we have sunk as a nation than the monumental national embarrassment called Ajaokuta Steel Company?
United States based Nigerian Professor, Victor E. Dike, captured the issue succinctly in his work titled Corruption in Nigera: A new paradigm for effctive control when he stated that "...corruption diverts scarce public resources into private pockets, literally undermines effective governance, endangers democracy and erodes the social and moral fabric of nations."
Our VIPs have shamefully used the Ajaokuta Steel Company to systematically divert public funds into their pockets. The question then is, should we allow another round of public treasury looting in the name of breathing life into the steel company?