The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has announced readiness to partner United Nations Development Organisation (UNIDO) and major manufacturers to address the challenge at the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited.
The President of NSE, Mr Tasiu Gidari-Wudil who spoke during a news conference on the forthcoming National Engineering Conference on Monday in Abuja, said other issues affecting the manufacturing sector would be addressed.
The Conference which would hold from November 27 to December 1, is themed: “Re-Engineering the Manufacturing Sector for Competitiveness and Enhanced Economic Growth”.
According to him theme for the conference began necessary because of the continuing decline of activities in the manufacturing space of Nigeria’s economy which has become a great concern to the Nigerian Engineers.
The NSE president noted that the reasons for the gloomy situation are not far-fetched, adding that they range from unfavorable and inconsistent government policies such as unstable foreign exchange regime.
“Hostile import licensing policies, unavailability of constant power, rising cost of alternate energy supply, amongst many others.
“Even though the non-oil export performance record was mainly based on agricultural produce, there were days of textile, coal, tyre, hides and skin and many other products export in Nigeria.
“The rubber plantations in the South have disappeared, the coal mines in the East are no more, the textile hubs in Kaduna and Kano are moribund, and so is the tannery industry across the North.
“Many international conglomerates that bolstered the manufacturing sector of Nigeria’s economy at some points have folded up their businesses and left.
“We can name them – Volkswagen, Michelin, Procter & Gamble, ISO Glass, Universal Steel, Universal Rubber, NASCO Fibre, GSK Pharma, Tower Aluminuim, etc. Many more may go.
“The saddest narrative in the manufacturing trajectory of Nigeria is the gigantic Ajaokuta Steel Manufacturing Company, a government-owned concern that never rolled out one length of steel since it was built and has been left to rot away.”
Gidari-Wudil said NSE would therefore partner UNIDO and other subject matter experts together to brainstorm and analyse the challenges bedeviling the manufacturing sector of Nigeria’s economy and forge a way forward.
He said at the end of the conference the society will come out with a communiqué with recommendations on the way to revive the manufacturing sector of the Nigeria’s economy.
He however, noted that NSE does not an enforcement powers but could only advice government from its expert viewpoint by giving solicited and unsolicited advise as part of its objectives.
Gidari-Wudil said it was the duty of government to take the advise and put into use adding that the establishment of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) was the original idea of the society.
Responding on the allegations against some engineers contributing to the decay in the sector, he refuted this and said some engineers give fantastic ideas but the leaders do not take them.
“The leadership of this country does not pay attention to technological development of the country. It is not everything that the engineers will do it is left to policy makers.
“How can you do policy on steel and you do not involve Nigerian engineers you are not serious, let our leaders listen to the professionals, be it medicine, aviation, education or engineering nothing is going to change if the professionals are not engaged.
“On Ajaokuta steel I believe there is international conspiracy because even the digital sector has to do with the manufacturing sector. Because if that company is running Nigeria will be a great industrialised nation.” he said.
The sub-themes for the forthcoming conference includes : Review of Structure and Performance of the Manufacturing Sector, Commercialisation of Innovations, Incubation and Start-ups.
Others are Value Chain Financing for Product Development, Promotion of MSMEs for the Revival of Rural Economies, Establishment of Clusters and Retention of Skilled Workforce and Reactivation of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
Major stakeholders in partnership with NSE include the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), BUA Group, the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), NNPC, NEWS Engineering Limited, Innoson Group, and many others.
The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited popularly known as Ajaokuta Steel Mill was incorporated in 1979 under President Shehu Shagari who began the project which was 84 per cent completed by the time of his removal from office in 1983.
However, the project was mismanaged and remains incomplete 40 years later.
Three-quarters of the complex have been abandoned, and only the light mills have been put into operation for small-scale fabrication and the production of iron rods.