With reports coming from President Muhammadu Buhari’s participation in the ongoing Russia-African Summit in Sochi, Russia, there are indications that Nigeria may soon realize her potentials and assume her rightful place in the comity of industrialized nations.
Perhaps what excites most in the take-aways from Buhari’s engagement of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was his ability to get Putin’s commitment to complete the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASC) which has literally transmuted into an ‘Abiku’ project over the decades.
The project, reckoned to have attained 98 percent completion twenty-five years ago (1994), has never produced a single steel till date! Some completed units of the Plant operated at different times but had to shut down due to non-availability of fund.
Regardless of the limitless potentials of the company with acknowledged capacity to generate thousands of jobs, previous administrations have never found the urgency in the need to complete the plants and make them functional. It has rather remained a conduit pipe through which public funds are siphoned with nothing to show.
The $4.6 billion ASC was embarked upon as a strategic industry, a job creator and a foreign exchange saver and earner. It was envisaged that the project would generate a myriad of socio-economic benefits and increase the productive capacity of the nation through its linkages to other industrial sectors.
It was to provide materials for infrastructural development, technology acquisition, human capacity building, income distribution, regional development and employment generation. While the project was expected to directly employ about 10,000 staff at the first phase of commissioning, the upstream and downstream industries elected to evolve all over the nation were to engage not less than 500,000 employees.
So, relief came the way of the beleaguered plant when the Russian authorities agreed to help revive the ASC which promises to revolutionize the nation’s industrial capacities whenever the plants are commissioned to churn out iron and steels not only for local use but for exports.
Buhari’s ability to get government to government deals with Putin on the ASC has validated the confidence and speed with which the moribund company would be revamped and brought to profitability. This is even more so when the plants were originally designed and built by the Russians who are obviously world leaders in the iron and steel industry.
Apart from the Russian intervention in the nation’s iron and steel industry, the President was also able to attract Russians interests to invest in the oil and gas sector.
For instance, the rehabilitation of the nation’s comatose refineries was brought to the table. According to a release by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, Nigeria and Russia will work together to improve efficiency of Nigeria’s oil sector, which is the backbone of the economy, in a way that will see to rehabilitation of epileptic oil refineries through establishment of framework for a joint venture between Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Russia-based leading oil company, Lukoil.
Both NNPC and Lukoil will work towards prospection of oil in deep offshore.
Nigeria and Russia also agreed to revive and solidify the venture between the NNPC and Russia’s gas giant, Gazprom for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas potential and infrastructure.
The Russia government agreed to support development of Nigeria’s rail infrastructure by constructing 1,400 kilometres track from Lagos to the South-South city of Calabar. There was also discussion on the advancement of ongoing project for the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s has now found a new ally in her arduous fight against insurgency especially the Boko Haram scourge. Since the President has directed the Justice and Defence ministers to urgently renew military and security ties with their counterparts in Russia, getting arms an ammunitions to combat the terrorists may have become easier now than ever.
Shehu said “This military cooperation agreement is expected to give impetus to further cooperation in direct procurement of military hardware on a government-to-government basis at a lower cost as well as training of military personnel and modernization of armed forces and renewal of infrastructure and equipment which President Putin promised to undertake.”
Should these far reaching commitments secured from the Russian authorities come to fruition, a landmark transformation of the nation’s economy and security remains just a matter of time. With Ajaokuta expected to be running full speed after the intervention of the Russians, industrialization, with all its concomitant benefits of job creation, is foreseeable in the country.