By Dan Opara, Owerri
In its bid to diversify Nigerian economy and break the jinx of being a perennial monoculture economy, the Federal Republic of Nigeria from the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development on Monday, Dec.9, 2019 in Owerri, held the 2nd Nigerian Metallurgical Industry Stake holders’ Forum, MISF, (Engagement with the South East Zone).
The theme of the event was:”Building Local Capacities for the Development of the Nigerian Metal Sector”.
According to the programme of the event, it reads:”Nigeria’s Metallurgical Industry:A Panacea for Economic Diversification and Industrialization”
In a key note address delivered by the Honourable Minister of State in the Ministry of Mines and Steel, Hon.Dr.Uchechukwu Ogah, expressed great pleasure to witness large turn out of stakeholders with high level enthusiasm, an impressive.
Speaking on the title of the presentation, which reads:”Nigeria’s Metallurgical Industry:A Panacea for Economic Diversification and Industrialization”, he described it as apt as it is in tandem with the Federal Govt. of Nigeria’s resolve to vigorously pursue the diversification of the economy inter-alia the Minerals and Metals Sector of the economic of Nigeria.
The Minister noted that the Metal Industry forms the bedrock on which the Industrialization and development of any nation of the world is built.
His words: ,”without the Steel and other Metals Industries, no meaningful technological advancement would be achieved. Virtually all other sectors of the economy rely on the Metal Sector in one way or the other to thrive, including Power, Agriculture, Transportation, Industry, Electrical/Electronics, Construction, Roads, Housing,etc”.
The Minister also spoke on the historical perspectives, Metallurgy, Steel, government policies and the way forward, even as he hoped that the deliberations at the forum will guide the government in policy formulation/implementations; especially as it has to do with where the players need government’s intervention.
The newly inaugurated Chairman of Metallurgical Operators Association in South East,Chief Goddy M.Ihenacho, who is the Chief Executive Officer of GMICORD Industry Group, in his acceptance speech, promised to move the association forward in his full capacity as the Chairman.
Chief Ihenacho further called on the State and Federal governments to come to the rescue of the Metal and Steel Operators following the enormous challenges facing their operation.
He mention some of sucj challenges as infrastructural decay in the South Eastern States of Nigeria, which according to him has become a national tragedy of sorts.
He fingered some of the problems facing the industry such as Gas Supply which is nearly 100% dependent on gas energy for the use of the equipment. He also spoke on the poor diesel supply chain, activities of scrap smelting companies, importation bottlenecks, funding, non protection of the local industries, especially from the Chinese firms, calling for urgent attention to these bittlenecks, saying that it is the way forward.
The Metallurgical Operators Association South East Chairman, Chief Ihenacho appealed to the Federal Government to borrow a leaf from its Chinese counterpart and grant similar export incentives to industrialists, to attract foreign exchange inflow to Nigeria, even as he called on the government to give some certain percentage of the export value to the manufacturers.
The Chairman however enjoined the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to support Metallurgical Industries (Local Metal Operators in Nigeria) with very low interest rate for machineries and long term repayment plan for them to survive.
The Chairman finally cited Ajaokuta Steel Complex and Steel Wire Coils and called for the urgent restriction of their activities of scrap smelting companies to the production of only raw materials, namely: rods and steel wire coils as such would enhance the survival, harsh and stiff competition they are facing currently.
He alternatively suggested to the Federal Govt. on the needs to lift the ban on the import of steel wire coils and reclassify it as raw material, so that operators will have options, until the Ajaokuta Steel Complex is completed.
Meanwhile, Governor of Imo State earlier received the Minister of State for Mining and Steel Development, Dr. Ogah and other delegations from the Federal Ministries.
He used the opportunity to speak on the import of technical education, especially from the foundations, saying that it remains the key to making Nigerian youths ready for the technological challenge in the future.
He attribute it to the reason he is rebuilding and and equipping Imo technical school, Owerri Imo State.