FG to Designate Ajaokuta as Free Trade Zone —Minister

The Ajaokuta town and its environs will soon be designated as a Free Trade Zone, the Minister for Steel Development, Shuaib Abubarkar-Audu, said on Thursday.

He said a proposal had been sent to the President, Bola Tinubu, for consideration and approval within the shortest possible time.

“This is part of the efforts being in place to serve as incentives to convince foreign investors who have already signified interest to buy into the steel industry in the country,” the minister said.

Abubakar-Audu was speaking on Thursday during his maiden visit to the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited as he took a tour of the complex company with some investors from America, Germany, Russia, and China.

“The aim of this visit is to show would-be investors around the vast potential of our our steel resources and the prospects it is capable of providing and to get first-hand information on the problems stopping production in the company in a bid to proffering solutions,” he added.

He further stated that if gotten right, Ajaokuta Steel Company would create over 500,000 jobs which would be enough to lift Nigerians out of poverty.

The minister said that the investors would carry out an advanced technical audit of the steel complex and its facilities to see what more was to be done.

“We have the Russians, Americans, Arabs, and Chinese who are showing interest. They have come to show their desire to carry out an advanced technical audit to see what needs to be completed.

“After my findings from here, we will forward everything to Mr President for his approval,” Audu said.

The minister said that in addition to the 3-year plan, there was a 5-year plan that would also see to ensuring the production of steel in other parts of the country.

Earlier, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, thanked the President for reviving the hope of Nigerians by making Ajaokuta a priority again.

Abdul-Akaba also commended Audu for his great vision and plans to revive the company, noting that Ajaokuta was a land of vast opportunities.

“Unlike the thinking of so many people, Ajaokuta is not obsolete but only requires the right attention to get the multi-billion dollar running again.

“All we have to do as staff is to join hands with the visions of the President and also key into the plans of the Minister,” Abdul-Alkaba said.

A foreign investor from Novostal-M Company in Russia, Mr Jalil Hkoodshoev, lauded the initiatives of the President in trying to revive the company.

Hkoodshoev noted that with what they had seen on the ground, they were interested in investing in the company.

He added that the resuscitation of the company would have a big impact not only on Nigeria, but the entire West Africa, and the African region in general.

“It is amazing and I think that the initiatives that have been taken by His Excellency, the President of Nigeria will have a big impact not only for Nigeria but all the sub-region and all of Africa.

“I hope that in the next couple of years, we can participate also as partners of the government for this project, and for the steel business,” Hkoodshoev said.