By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari says the Ajaokuta Steel Complex will generate 1.6 billion U.S. dollars annually and provide about 500,000 jobs for Nigerian youths.
A statement by the president’s spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, said that Buhari made the declaration at the Palace of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland in Okene, which he also inaugurated as part of his one-day state visit to Kogi State on Thursday.
The president also spoke of his administration’s determination to position Kogi as an industrial hub as well as a solid mineral power base.
Buhari explained how the Federal Government achieved the resolution of all legal entanglements that had bogged down the progress of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.
According to him, the project stands to benefit the people of the state immensely.
“No other single project holds the key to unlocking this vast potential as much as the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, which we inherited as a long moribund complex strangulating under a tangle of local and international commercial disputes.
“I am glad to report that as we begin to round off in office, we can genuinely say that our administration has rescued Ajaokuta from all legal disabilities.
“It is now ready for concessioning to a private investor with the right profiles to put it to work for Nigeria in general and Kogi in particular.
“The process has cost this Federal Government over 400 million dollars so far, but I consider it money well-spent, as we move closer to achieving our objective of transforming Kogi State into Nigeria’s iron and steel powerhouse,” he said.
Buhari added: “The benefits of getting Ajaokuta Steel Complex working again are numerous. It would provide over 500,000 estimated jobs and more than 1.6 billion dollars in annual income to the Nigerian economy.
“Nigerians can be rest assured that I remain committed to seeing this process to a logical conclusion before the end of my tenure in office.”
Besides, the president said that Kogi stood to benefit in diverse ways when the 614 kilometre AKK gas pipeline, which traversed the state, commenced operations in 2023.
He also affirmed that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had delivered on its promises to Nigerians at all levels.
He stressed that Gov. Yahaya Bello had performed creditably in his two terms as governor of the state.
“We are an administration that prides ourselves in the fulfillment of our electoral promises to the Nigerian people, at both national and sub-national levels.
“This is why I am glad that we have an impressive array of legacy projects, through your own state government, as proof of our stewardship of Kogi.
“The APC Administration has indelible footprints in Kogi,” he said.
Buhari cited some of the projects executed by the Federal Government in Kogi State as the Itakpe-Okene bypass, the Obajana-Kabba road and the Itakpe-Warri railway service, among others.
The Obajana-Kabba Concrete Road was built by Dangote Industries Limited under “Roads for Taxes Initiative’ (Executive Order 7).
“I am very pleased to be here today to commission several projects executed by the administration of His Excellency, Gov. Yahaya Bello,” he said.
He commended the governor for rising up to the occasion in many sectors, especially security.
“We are proud of him and I encourage the people of Kogi State to continue to support him and his team, as they are working hard to ensure peace, security and development in the state.”
The projects, which the president inaugurated, include the Reference Hospital Okene, which boasts of the first-ever hyperbaric treatment chamber in Nigeria, with a fleet of ambulances attached to it, and the new Ohinoyi’s Palace at Okene.
Others are the Ganaja Junction Flyover and interchange at Lokoja; the GYB Model Science Secondary School, Adankolo, Lokoja; the Muhammadu Buhari Square (Civic Centre) in Lokoja; and a fleet of high-tech security vehicles to combat crime and criminalities.
Earlier in his welcome address, Gov. Bello thanked the president for his leadership quailities and for the various programmes and interventions which had positively impacted on the state and its people.
He cited projects as the Itakpe-Warri Rail Line, which, he noted, had brought relief to travellers and business owners in the state.
Bello told Buhari that the projects inaugurated were in fulfilment of his commitment to serve the people.
He said that since his swearing-in on Jan. 27, 2016, his administration constituted a multi-sectoral committee that went round the nooks and crannies of the state, identifying the needs of the people.
“Their document (report) has been our guide,” he stated.
While acknowledging the commitment of Buhari toward the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, the governor thanked the president for his unrelenting interest in the project.
Bello also stated that his administration had cordial relationship with the traditional institution in the state, stating that the new Ohinoyi’s Palace, being inaugurated by President Buhari, was a testimony to the relations.
Earlier, the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Dr Ibrahim Ado, represented by the Ohi of Okengwe, Alhaji Mohammed Anage, who spoke on behalf of the traditional rulers of the Central Senatorial Zone of Kogi State, thanked Buhari for his support to the Bello-administration.
He also commended the president for being the first sitting President of Nigeria to come to Kogi on a working visit.