Nigeria has iron ore reserves of about 2bn metric tonnes but imports almost all its steel

Iron is the major component of steel; usually over 90 percent.

Nigeria is the 12th largest iron ore resource country in the world and the second largest in Africa, but about 70 percent of the deposits are yet to be proven, notes Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

The vice president who spoke at the foundation laying ceremony of Kam Steel Integrated Complex at Jimba Oja, Kwara State, Nigeria, said the Nigerian government was “looking at options to solve the challenge, including synergising government capacity and private sector competencies for certifying existing deposits.”

Stressing that Nigeria has about 2 billion metric tonnes of iron ore reserve, Osinbajo said: “we must be extremely ambitious in our industrialization efforts,” adding that the need for increased levels of investment in Nigeria, “has never been more crucial than at this period in time.”

Nigeria is facing its worst economic crisis in years as government revenues have taken a plunge due to low oil prices, falling to N299 billion ($1.50 billion) in March from N345.095 billion ($1.73 billion) in February.  The country depends on oil for about 70 percent of its revenue.

The aim of General Yakubu Gowon when he founded the National Steel Development Authority (NSDA) in 1971 while he was Head of State, to harness Nigeria’s iron ore reserves was to turn Nigeria into a global player in the steel industry; 45 years latter, billions of metric tonnes of the natural resource have not been unearthed. As a result, Nigeria presently imports 90 percent of its steel needs from China and others. Every year, the country consumes roughly six million tonnes of steel.

Alhaji Kamoru Yusuf who together with his wife established Nigeria’s first independently owned cold roll steel complex in the northern city of Ilorin, Kwara State, is encouraged by the ambitions of the present leadership in Nigeria which has made diversification of the economy a key objective and has disclosed two major areas of focus to be agriculture and solid minerals. Yusuf is, therefore, boldly expanding, with a new integrated steel complex.

Prof. Osinbajo stated that steel plays an important part in President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s economic agenda. He, therefore, called on other operators in the steel industry in the country to ensure Nigeria “becomes a net exporter of steel within the shortest possible time”.

Although, like several other commodities, iron ore price is falling, but having enough for local use will take huge foreign exchange burden off the country which has had to introduce restrictions to address its forex crisis.

The vice president also said that the federal Government has been putting in place the right macro-economic policies and is working to ensure an enabling environment for businesses to grow. “This is why the President has given clear instructions that we must make signifiant progress in the ease of doing business ranking this year,” he said.

“Diligent efforts are being undertaken to ensure this goal is achieved, including the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee, which has since commenced work with a very keen presidential oversight.”