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OPINION

Cholera in Hard Times

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By Dakuku Peterside

Yemen, a West Asian country in the Arabian Peninsula, reported one million cases of cholera in March 2018. The world shook. At that time, Yemen was in a civil war, leading to the Stockholm Agreement between feuding parties. The cholera outbreak in Yemen was linked to conflict, lack of access to clean water, extreme poverty, and the collapse of the health system.

An unholy marriage of a conflict and an infectious disease outbreak can render people and health systems powerless and defenseless.

Compared to Yemen, Nigeria was recovering from COVID-19 in 2021 when it experienced cholera outbreaks in 29 out of 36 states, affecting 111,062 people.
Key drivers of the 2021 cholera outbreak in Nigeria were flooding, poor health facilities, lack of access to clean water, reduced hygiene, and poverty, some of which are persistent challenges in Nigeria’s development equation.

As of 2023, Nigeria has reported over 60,000 suspected cholera cases, resulting in several hundred deaths. The outbreak has affected multiple states, with the North bearing the highest burden. By mid-2024, Nigeria is still grappling with cholera outbreaks. While Nigeria is not in a civil war like Yemen and is not experiencing flooding in 29 states, the country is dealing with cholera outbreaks of alarming proportions.

Following a dynamic risk assessment, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated its emergency center as the death toll from the recent cholera outbreak, prevalent in 31 states, reached 53 nationwide. The situation is urgent and requires immediate attention.

Cholera is a severe diarrheal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which can lead to dehydration and death if not promptly treated. Nigeria has faced recurring cholera outbreaks, often exacerbated by conflicts, displacement, and natural disasters. A multitude of factors contributes to the persistence and severity of these outbreaks.

First, conflict and displacement exacerbate the issue. Ongoing conflicts, particularly in the Northeast region, have displaced millions. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps often lack proper sanitation facilities and clean water, creating ideal conditions for cholera to spread.

Secondly, the rainy season (usually from May to October) frequently leads to flooding, contaminating water sources and increasing the risk of cholera. Flood-prone areas and communities living along riverbanks are particularly vulnerable.

Thirdly, while urban areas might have better healthcare infrastructure, rural communities often lack healthcare, clean water, and sanitation infrastructure. This disparity increases the disease’s impact in less accessible regions. Fourthly, Nigeria’s healthcare system faces significant challenges, including limited resources, inadequate infrastructure, and shortages of medical supplies and personnel. During outbreaks, these weaknesses hinder effective response and treatment.

The current cholera outbreak situation approaches emergency dimensions because the infection is spreading during an economically and socially challenging time for the nation. Hard times and infectious diseases are a devastating combination, making people more susceptible to infections. The poorest and most deprived are the most vulnerable.

The challenge of hunger, malnutrition, lack of access to potable water, inability to pay for essential food items, and dearth of healthcare facilities is real in Nigeria. Unfortunately, our governors and federal government officials are engrossed in constructing roads and bridges that only the living can use. Somehow, we are deaf to the cries of poverty and hunger all around us. We only hear the sirens of politicians and the elite. Fighting epidemics like cholera and Lassa fever is not a priority.

NCDC has been outstanding in its work. The agency has consistently demonstrated what a proactive and functional government department can achieve. We are also fortunate to have two ministers of health who have the clarity and determination to tackle the most complex challenges. However, fighting an epidemic requires addressing the social conditions that make people vulnerable. Hunger and poverty are health hazards in themselves.

Current efforts in affected areas are primarily focused on seeking medical solutions rather than a combined approach. If people continue to consume unhygienic food and water, the risk of infections increasing to epidemic proportions and disease strains becoming more resistant is high. A combination of vaccination, access to potable water, food security, improved hygiene, enhanced nutritional value, and extensive public awareness is necessary. We must combat this cholera outbreak as if it were a war. Each of us has a role to play in this fight, from maintaining personal hygiene to advocating for better public health policies.

Some states have been proactive and exemplary. Under former Governor Dave Umahi, Ebonyi maintained a high vaccination rate, and the current Governor, Francis Nwifuru, has elevated vaccination efforts. States like Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Nasarawa, Niger, and Rivers have prioritized the health of their people over petty political considerations. Jigawa State, according to UNICEF and the Federal Ministry of Health, was declared the first open defecation-free state in Nigeria.

This is a plus in the fight against cholera. Lagos has been exemplary in public health education. Their efforts are inspiring and demonstrate that change is possible. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has also intervened significantly by providing cholera vaccines for nine states, in addition to offering free medical services in rural areas.

Vaccination offers immediate protection against cholera, reducing the likelihood of outbreaks and saving lives while also complementing long-term solutions. We must address the root causes of the issue—severe poverty, hunger, and the lack of clean water in 34 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

These factors make people more susceptible to outbreaks like cholera. To break this cycle, we need targeted policies and initiatives to protect vulnerable populations while expanding health and social welfare services.

It’s not just about treating the symptoms but addressing the underlying issues to prevent future outbreaks. It is also time we ramp up public health education as a crucial strategy for combating cholera. Apart from educating, it empowers people to take preventive measures and change behaviours that lead to a reduction in the spread of epidemics.

Cholera has been a recurring problem in Nigeria for decades, with significant outbreaks recorded throughout the country’s history, often linked to poor sanitation, lack of clean water, and displacement due to conflict or natural disasters.

Given its recurrence, Nigeria should have developed better ways to prevent or mitigate its impact. We should have learned numerous lessons from previous outbreaks that would position us well to tackle this epidemic. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The factors contributing to these outbreaks persist, and little or nothing has been done about them.

We only react when faced with an outbreak. We implement immediate measures, and once the outbreak subsides, we revert to our old ways, neglecting the long-term actions necessary to prevent cholera outbreaks. How can many cities in Nigeria lack clean, safe pipe-borne water for public use?

Clean water is a luxury in Nigeria. The middle class can afford so-called “pure water” or bottled water that is anything but pure, given its sources and the poor hygienic conditions under which some of this “pure water” is produced. The working class and the poor still consume highly contaminated water, and many need to be educated on how to treat this contaminated water. The inevitable outcome is cholera outbreaks.

Many poor Nigerians cannot afford safe water. One liter of bottled water costs about N200. For a family of six, consuming at least three liters per day, the family would spend N3,600 per day and about N108,000 per month on drinking water alone. As of my last check, the minimum wage in this country is still N30,000, excluding the cost of cooking water and other uses. It’s no surprise that there is a persistent and recurring outbreak of waterborne diseases like cholera.

Addressing cholera in Nigeria requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both immediate needs during outbreaks and the underlying causes perpetuating the disease. The government must strengthen healthcare systems to improve outbreak response and treatment capabilities, enhance water and sanitation infrastructure (especially in rural and conflict-affected areas), increase community engagement and education to promote better hygiene practices, and tackle broader socio-economic issues such as hunger, poverty, and widespread illiteracy. We must decisively win the war against cholera once and for all.

OPINION

Karimi and the Reality of Our Collective Vulnerability

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By Tunde Olusunle

Commuters on the “Trunk A Road” as it was labelled, traversing Kabba-Aiyetoro Gbedde-Mopa-Isanlu-Egbe communities in Kogi State must have observed frenetic construction activities at the Egbe section of the road abutting Kwara State. I’m told vehicular movement is infrequent these days because of the decrepit condition of the road, its attendant loneliness and its susceptibility to the murderers rascality of criminals.

Travellers to parts of Kwara, Oyo and Osun, from parts of the North notably Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi and the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) these days, prefer the Kabba-Omuo Ekiti road which is marginally less degenerate.
Okun-Yoruba people domiciled in their traditional abodes desiring to conduct business in contemporary Kwara State to which they once belonged, however, are left with no option but to ply the road under discussion. For them it will be easier to catch glimpses of ongoing construction in the area I previously alluded to. 

There is a signpost with the inscription *Ido Egbe* in the part of the expansive Egbe community where the said development is proceeding. A luminous perimeter fence covers the generous hectarage being developed at the said site. One particular structure rises sky high above the several others all capped with lemon-green aluminium roofing. The buildings vary in shape and size even as they are at various stages of completion. A long vehicle rests around the ongoing development, obviously one of many others feeding the project with its needs. You cannot but ask yourself whether the complex is a creation of the federal or state government, or a private investor desirous of doing business in the community. Or could it be a model residential estate? 

The project under reference is a *Military Foreward Operating Base, (FOB),* being developed by Sunday Karimi, the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial Zone. Over the years, parts of the district have come under premeditated attack by armed robbers, kidnappers and unfeeling herdsmen. At various times, cold-blooded robbers have attacked banks operating in several communities in the zone. In every instance, they left behind a trail of crimson blood, sorrow and tears. From Kabba to Aiyetoro-Gbedde to Isanlu, to Odo-Ere and Egbe in Kogi West, the pattern of the hoodlums have been pretty much the same. They launch surprise attacks on the police stations in each community. They thus neutralise the capacity of the law enforcement agents to engage them when they eventually swoop on their major targets, the banks.

First Bank, Mainstreet Bank, United Bank for Africa, (UBA) and Access Bank at various times have been robbed by the hoodlums, during banking hours. The callousness of the nonessentials was so grave on every occasion that it spiralled down the subsistence economy of the locals. The banks shut down for long spells ostensibly to rethink their continuing operation or not in the district vis-a-vis the losses they incurred. They equally evaluated the costs of rebuilding decimated structures and facilities in each instance relative to whatever fiscal trickles they earned, juxtaposed with the costs of providing services to their predominantly low income customers. We are talking about farmers, small scale entrepreneurs, school teachers and local government employees mainly.

More recently, kidnapping for ransom a trend hitherto heard about from very distant ecologies, has become another dimension of criminal pastimes by faceless groups. Sleepy communities in Yagba East and Yagba West local government areas basking in their rustic innocence and quietude, have been rudely violated by harbingers of grief and lachrymose. In January this year, six people were kidnapped within a space of 48 hours, around Isanlu, headquarters of Yagba East. Three of them lost their lives trying to escape from their abductors. Two women were picked up from Ejiba in Yagba West last May, by a gang of one dozen gun-toting brigands. Okunland which previously epitomised the purest innocence, calmness, serenity and safety, has been grievously intruded upon. This is not forgetting the impudence and insult of having irreverent Fulani nomads marching their herds through our farmlands destroying the subsistence investments of the people.

As a fairly regular visitor to my home community for sundry events and programmes, I’ve often been very concerned about the inadequacy of the capacity of security operatives at the local levels. I speak here about insufficient personnel and armament wherewithal in our localities. Isanlu for instance is the headquarters of Yagba federal constituency which aggregates Yagba East, Yagba West and Mopamuro local governments. It is host to the area command of the police and oversees the three local government areas in question. I will be amazed, however, if there are up to 150 officers and men, or half that number of serviceable armaments in the armoury of the area command. I had reason to request for police cover for a family event we hosted about six years ago. The police apologetically replied and alluded to the inadequacy of manpower. I resorted to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC) as backup plan. I was told straight up that the entirety of my local government area was served by 15 civil defence personnel. 

Critically, I was informed that most of the men had indeed been taken up by traditional rulers in our parts. The kings as it were desire that their royalty be heralded at every stop, courtesy of state uniform-wearing operatives functioning as human furniture, who sit on the front seats of their vehicles The royalties resorted to civil defence staff in the absence of police personnel to serve in as orderlies. Such are the confounding statistics and realities of the security architecture in our sub-urban communities. Let’s be reminded that hoodlums perfect their operational strategies before they take on a target, institution or community. This of course includes distilling the prevailing personnel and armament strengths of their targets. This explains why police stations in rural communities are almost always first targets where security personnel are neutralised and the armouries accessed and looted to strengthen their own capacities. 

Against the backdrop of such embarrassing and condemnable state failure at the very centre to protect and secure its citizens, this very basic constitutionally non-negotiable responsibility has had to be taken up not by subregionals, but private individuals. This is the new normal as we find in the example under interrogation. One has heard elsewhere of privileged Nigerians or organisations partnering security and intelligence services in the provision of operational needs and infrastructure. The *Military Forward Operating Base* in Egbe, however, is one hundred percent privately funded by Sunday Karimi. He has taken a broader view of the concerns of his people, with the aim of assuaging their overwhelming security worries. It is definitely a tall and ambitious project daring to conceive and build from foundation, a complex which can probably pass as a modern military barracks, but Karimi has confronted the challenge headlong. 

The “Foreward Operating Base” project under review is without doubts a visionary concept. It has the “observatory,” the tall structure which dwarfs the rooftops in the upcoming premises, where soldiers on guard duties will get a good view of the area and sensitise ground troops in the event of a possible threat. There is a security post and a mini-administrative block. There are also two blocks of 12 rooms each all ensuite, which come to 24 rooms for the “rank and file,” the junior officers. Boreholes have been drilled and will pump water to overhead tanks which will service the facilities and premises, downstream. Two units of three bedroom bungalows are provided for officers, while there is also rendezvous spot, an “officer’s mess” as is tradition with the military. Hopefully, a skeletal “mammy market” for the junior officers will spawn when the facility in its wholeness is operationalised. 

Expectedly, Karimi has either engaged with the military high command for the adequate manning of the facility, or has prioritised this now that the Egbe project is nearing completion. This again is part of the systemic dysfunction consuming our nation and we the citizenry. Why should government departments have to be begged and lobbied to do their jobs? This again beggars the question of either unthinkable complacency or pure lack of capacity in statecraft. On account of his present effort in helping to secure the lives and belongings of his people, Karimi deserves our collective applause. Like Leke Abejide his colleague in the House of Representatives who has championed impactful causes for his people, Karimi in this instance, has chosen to deviate from the despicable practice by some of our representatives, who have gleefully weaponised poverty. These are the mindless politicians who waylay our hapless rural folks with sachets of salt and packets of pasta on polls day. 

Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

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OPINION

Gov. Alia: Our Son of Consolation 

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By Simon Imobo-Tswam 

It was the English dramatist, William Shakespeare, who posed the question, “What’s in a name?” That was in one of his celebrated plays, Romeo and Juliet.

And he proceeded to answer: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

” 

He meant names per se are mere human conveniences for identification and differentiation; and that names, in themselves, have no special meaning or depth.

 

But one doesn’t necessarily need to agree with him: for we know that there’s much in a name i.e. there’s some depth, weight or mystery about names beyond their surface or literal meanings.

For instance, if Gov. Alia’s birth-name were  Iortsaha or Iorvaa rather than Iormem, would his tenure be ushering Benue people to their place or station of rest? Would he, like Barnabas (in the Bible) become the “Son of Consolation” or turn out to be the “Son of Despoilation”?

That’s why even God changes our names to align with His plans for us. Roll-call: Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Sarai/Sarah, Saul/Paul, Joseph/Barnabas are ready examples. 

So, let’s look at our Governor’s names: Father Hyacinth Iormem Alia. 

1. Father: In Jn. 21:15-17, Jesus told Revd. Fathers/Pastors: “Feed My Lambs/Feed My Sheep.” That’s what Alia is doing. And the Lambs/Sheep appreciate it.

2. Iormem: People have rested/People are resting/will rest. This is the reality on ground in Benue today. Ask civil servants, ask teachers and pensioners or people on the street. The Ates are booming and night-life has returned to our towns and cities. 

3. Alia: The name transcends Tivland, Nigeria, cultures,  faiths and geography. 

In Tiv language, Alia means the Remnant, the Little portion that remains after use. It could be Flour, it could Grains, it could be Seeds or Seedlings.

The Alia a kwagh (the Little of something) is/are often overlooked, underrated or doubted, given the quantitative disadvantage. 

But in the Hand of God, Alia can be anything (ranging from the tremendous to the phenomenal) since Jesus is not a God of Quantity.

We see the “Little cruse of oil” launching the poor widow into oil business! We see the Five Loaves and Two Fish feeding 5000 people with 12 baskets leftovers!

The big lesson here is that once we put Alia (the Remnants, the Little thing) in God’s Hand, anything is possible. Even the rejected, despised, ignored or underrated stone can become the “cornerstone!”

In Hebrew, Wikipedia states that “Aliyah,” a variation of Alia, means “to go up” to, say, a higher level, upstairs, to the mountain-top etc.

In essence, Alia means: High-level, the hilltop, and he, accordingly, summons Benue people: to go up, to go higher, to climb up …to a higher life, to live a life of hope, value and dignity.

But Alia/Aliyah has a broader meaning. Initially, it meant “going up” to Jerusalem to celebrate, but today, it “has come to mean the return of (dispersed) Jews to the Land of Israel.”

This too has both significant and symbolic meaning for Benue people. It means those Benue people uprooted from their ancestral lands will surely return to their ancestral homes, in due season. Plus, the Diaspora Benue will get more involved in our civic/community development efforts.

This is  not a forlorn hope, but a campaign promise. And, with Alia, every campaign promise is coming alive on Benue’s landscape. 

In Christianity too, scholars tell us the Alia/Aliyah is not foreign to Scriptures either. The first time we see Alia referenced in the Bible is in Exodus when it tells us of Moses “going up” to Mt. Horeb upon divine summons. This Alia, thus, invites us to move hither, to go up from the valley of lamentations to the high-level of  laughter and luxuriation.

And in Arabic, Alia is derived from Ali. It is said to be 

gender-neutral, common in the Arab world, and means “high,” “lofty” or “one who is elevated.”

The circumstances of Gov. Alia’s advent and elevation advertise the organic and effervescent nature of the name. And in his elevation, he strains himself to elevate others too to the high place, to a higher life or a place of restfulness.

So, whether we look at his names within or without Tivland, they make sense – be it literally or figuratively. In fact, given the unfolding reality, we can say both his middle and surnames- Iormem and Alia – bother on the prophetic.

We can see the prophetic unfolding in the areas of: social welfare and human capital development; critical infrastructure; a feverish urban renewal drive; and an ambitious effort to check the menace of annual flooding in Makurdi, especially in the Wurukum, Low-level and Achusa precincts.

Benue has had governors who were deservingly called “Mr. Infrastructure” by dint of their imprint on the state. And we are grateful. But suddenly, Gov. Alia is making them look like forerunners, those who came to prepare the stage for his revolutionary or transformational advent.

Like magic, street lights are now working; major streets like Iorkyaa Ako are being tarred; High-Level Roundabout is closed to traffic because of the mega-project going on there. 

From testimonies from Gboko, Otukpo, Katsina-Ala, Benue has become one giant construction site. Benue State is, once again, vibrating, pulsating with physical development. And the chorus is: “Alia Doo.”

Let me touch on something critical to the  health of our homes, offices, environment and economy: Waste management. Waste management 

is an urban challenge globally-speaking. 

This is why in some of our cities, it’s an outright nightmare. I don’t know if the Makurdi situation was a challenge or a nightmare prior to Alia’s governorship. But challenge or nightmare, Alia has taken a decisive action.

The State Government, via the Bureau of Entrepreneurship and Wealth Creation, has entered into a partnership with Sector Lead Ltd with the aim of transforming  metropolitan waste into wealth through a comprehensive value-chain project.

So much is really happening as primed  government agencies are impacting lives and the landscape. 

Gov. Alia is superintending Benue at the critical intersection of vision, preparation, good governance, prudence, sensitivity, empathy and passion. It’s evident. 

But for him- it’s not enough that he is bearing his full weight on the machinery of governance – he supervises projects himself, even at night! That is leadership; that is leading from the front.

Revd. Fr. (Dr.) Hyacinth Iormem Alia, this Church Ambassador to politics, reminds us of another minister in the Lord’s Temple i.e. Barnabas.

Barnabas was originally named Joseph, but we know him more by his latter name of Barnabas, which, translated into English, means “the Son of Consolation.” 

The word in Original Greek is Paraklesis, a broad term covering encouragement, consolation, comfort, compassion, exhortation, and entreaty. 

The Apostolic Barnabas  embodied all of the above. And given what we are seeing of Fada Alia’s consoling work, we are saying: “Like Barnabas like Alia.”

The governor has just returned from “Thank-you-tours” to the various zones. And the enthusiastic crowds that came out to welcome him are proof that Benue people still stand with him; and they appreciate his stewardship as well as its sweetly unfolding promise.

Whether the governor gets honorific chieftaincy titles  tomorrow or not, he can rest, assured that he has already been crowned by his constituents as their Barnabas, their “Son of Consolation.”

Afterall, there is some truth in the ancient proverb which states that: “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.”

Well done, the Barnabas of Benue state. God keep Alia. God bless Benue.

Imobo-Tswam, a retired newspaper editor, writes from Abuja.

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OPINION

Tinubu and the Ajaokuta Steel Company Completion Challenge

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By Martha Agas

The Ajaokuta Steel Company Ltd (ASCL) as the name implies, is located in Ajaokuta, in the north central state of Kogi, on 24,000 hectares of land was established in 1979 by the government of President Shehu Shagari.

It was meant to drive Nigeria’s modernity through industrialisation.

The steel plant is not just a rolling mill but an integrated iron and steel plant with about 43 units.

By design, it has four rolling mills: the Billet Mills, the Light section Mill (LSM), the Wire Rod Mill and the Medium section and Structural Mill.

They are all envisaged to facilitate numerous socio economic benefits to the country and enhance the nation’s productive capacity through its integration with other industrial sectors.

This is in addition to serving as a means of saving and earning foreign exchange.

Besides supplying materials for infrastructure development, the plant is expected to produce 10,000 direct jobs in its first phase. The multiplier effect is projected to generate an additional 500,000 indirect jobs.

Before the Shagari administration was ousted by the junta in1983, it was 84 per cent completed and by 1994, it was 98 per cent completed.

However, the project  could not continue due to a lack of funds, mismanagement and legal battles.

Unfortunately, what was meant to be Nigeria`s pride, 40 years later, remains in  a comatose as efforts by past governments  to complete its construction and resuscitate the then functional parts yielded no result.

While previous efforts and promises to resuscitate the plant may seems cliché, President Bola Tinubu`s assured that a significant difference would be seen before his tenure expires.

This aligns with his vision of the renewed hope agenda which has economic diversification as one of its major flanks.

The target is to grow the economy of Nigeria to more than one trillion dollars by the end of its first term.

When Tinubu took the helm of the nation`s affairs on May 29, 2023, he promised to remodel Nigeria`s economy to bolster growth and development.

He also said that his industrial policy would utilise the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.

To achieve this feat, he embarked on reforms and initiatives aimed at rejuvenating the economy and promoting industrialisation in Nigeria.

However, for this to happen, the iron and steel industry must be priortised and fully developed because of its crucial role in achieving this feat.

The president emphasised the importance of a revitalised steel industry, as a catalyst for robust economic growth and a gateway to immense opportunities for Nigeria’s vast pool of talented entrepreneurs.

In line with this, the president established the Ministry of Steel Development in August 2023, to champion the vision and work on the improvement of all steel and metallic resources in the country for economic growth.

The ministry`s mandates include to resuscitate the Ajaokuta steel company and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) Itakpe, and also to revive the steel industry.

The move is also in keeping to his campaign promise of resuscitating the Ajaokuta Steel Company by the end of his second term, aimed at creating 500,000 jobs to lift Nigerians out of poverty.

For a company that has been in comatose for 40 years, resuscitating it requires courage and political will which the Tinubu administration appears to have.

Experts estimate that a minimum of two billion dollars is required to resuscitate it.

Discussions with the original equipment builders of the steel plant, Russian company, Tyamzhpromexport (TPE) to complete the job they started 45 years ago are on-going.

Although the Chinese, Indian and Arab companies have indicated interest, to handle the job, the Russian consortium, comprising a team from Russia’s TPE/Rostec, Novostal, and Nigeria’s Proforce, are chiselling out a blueprint for the revival of the plant.

To demonstrate his commitment to the resuscitation, Tinubu appointed an indigene of Kogi, Prince Shuiabu Audu, as the Minister of Steel Development.

It is projected that his success would be a source of pride to Nigeria, and particularly to his kinsmen, whom he would not want to disappoint.

When Audu took office, he said the ministry would adopt a collegiate approach to reviving the plant by exploring all realistic means.

One of the approaches is a three-year roadmap of short and medium term plans.

Under the arrangement, due to the substantial amount involved, the units would be concessioned to investors with core competence to manage them.

At the ministerial sector update on the performance of the Tinubu`s administration, Audu said he directed that while navigating through resolving broader issues, the challenges that could be resolved in immediate term should be addressed.

In line with the directive, the minister set in motion the revival of the Light Mill Section (LSM) of the plant, projected to produce 400,000 metric tonnes of iron rods per annum.

These rods would be used for the construction of 30,000 KM of roads across the six geopolitical zones in the President`s first term.

This is part of the concrete road revolution of the renewed hope agenda of the president.

The construction is estimated to require seven million metric tonnes of iron rods over the four year period, about which Shuiabu mentioned talks have been held with the Minister of Works.

He added that Ajaokuta can produce 400,000 tonnes of it, and although it is a small amount, the president wants the company to supply some of the rods needed for Federal Government projects.

In realising this feat, the minister obtained presidential approval to raise private capital to restart the LSM.

“We are at the final stages of raising over N35 billion from a local financial institution, which is around 25 million US dollars to be able to restart the light section mill of the complex so that we can produce iron rods.

“The local financial institution has given us a final offer which I have done a cover letter and forwarded the relevant documents to the minister of finance to be able to take the financing on behalf of the federal government.

“This is through signed promissory notes that will be discounted and provided for the Ajaokuta mill to be able to get back on track in terms of the iron rods production.

“That light section mill has the capacity to produce up to 400,000 metric tonnes of iron rods per annum,“ he said.

He said that the Federal Government plans to establish Ajaokuta as a Free Trade Zone to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and to diversify the country`s economy.

“Part of the plan is to designate the 24,000 hectare land of Ajaokuta as an Industrial Park and create a Free Trade Zone to further attract Foreign Direct Investment’’, he said.

The second stage of the plant`s resuscitation involves producing military hardware.

The Federal Government has taken steps to begin the production of military hardware in the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, as the Ministries of Steel Development and Defence are set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the implementation.

The plant has engineering workshops with the capacity to manufacture hardware for the military under the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) Act.

Stakeholders observe that the move is timely, considering Nigeria`s enormous security challenges.

The minister mentioned that the Metallurgical Development Centre in Jos has the capability to provide the Lead and Zinc required to produce military hardware such as rifles, vests, helmets and bullets, among other things in the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.

While these stages are in motion, discussions have begun on reviving the 110 megawatt power plant in Ajaokuta, which can supply power not only to the plant but also to the national grid.

Due to the difficulties in securing funds to implement the plan, the minister is spearheading some initiatives for public-private partnerships.

In this framework, the asset would serve as collateral, enabling private investors to provide financing and expertise to rehabilitate the power plant.

The potential investors include Transcorp Power, Niger Delta Power Holding and Reticulated Global Engineering.

But while these efforts are on-going, there are myths surrounding the delay in the completion of the plant.

Leaders of Geregu and Ajaokuta, the company’s host communities, said in the past that the non-completion was due to mystical forces arising from the neglect of the communities.

They still live with the unfulfilled promises made to them of road construction and rehabilitation, the repair of their schools and other developmental projects. They say the gods must be pacified to make any tangible progress.

The Chairman of Geregu Community Association, Alhaji Idris Aliyu, said that the ancestors are not happy because the agreement reached when the company acquired their lands in 1976 has not been implemented.

He urged that their bad roads be fixed and schools repaired as promised.

While these claims may not be empirical, it is important that all necessary land compensation be fulfilled and basic amenities provided for the communities.

After decades of delay, will Tinubu deliver on his promise or will the long wait continue? (NAN Features)

 

 

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Share The Federal Government has approved a $21 million dollars contract for the construction of a metering system for 187...

NEWS5 hours ago

Okeke Congratulates Enugu Governor Over Excellence Awards 

ShareBy David Torough, Abuja  A legal practitioner, Barrister Henry Okeke has congratulated the Enugu State Governor, Dr Peter Mbah, on...

NEWS6 hours ago

NAFDAC Raids Market, Confiscates Alcoholic Beverages in Sachet, Pet Bottles

Share The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Friday confiscated alcoholic beverages packaged in sachets...

JUDICIARY6 hours ago

S/Court Judgment, New Dawn for Grassroots Devt – Northern Elders

ShareThe Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has expressed satisfaction with the recent Supreme Court judgment that granted financial autonomy to the...

NEWS6 hours ago

FG pays Severance Package of 885 Disengaged Immigration Officers

Share The Federal Government has paid the severance benefits of 885 Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) officers disengaged from service in...

NEWS6 hours ago

School Building Collapse: Plateau Govt. Confirms 22 Dead, 132 Injured

Share The Plateau State Government has confirmed 22 deaths and 132 injured persons, from the Jos collapsed school building. Mr...

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