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Revisiting Ajaokuta: Unveiling the Complexities Behind Nigeria’s Steel Industry



Standing amidst the vast expanse of the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASC), one cannot help but feel a sense of despair. Over $8 billion worth of investments lies dormant under the scorching African sun, a painful reminder of unrealized potential and systemic failures. As I traversed the grounds of ASC, witnessing its grandeur reduced to ruins, I couldn’t hold back my tears. What went wrong? In this comprehensive post, I delve into the intricacies of Ajaokuta’s plight, shedding light on the multifaceted challenges plaguing Nigeria’s steel industry.

Ajaokuta Steel Company is no ordinary venture; it boasts a sprawling infrastructure, including a 68km road network, 24 housing estates, a seaport, and a 110mw power generation plant. With 43 separate plants within its confines, Ajaokuta holds the promise of generating over 500,000 jobs once operational.

At the heart of the issue lies the fundamental importance of steel in industrial development. Every industrialized nation relies on a robust steel sector, and Nigeria is no exception. Currently, Nigeria imports approximately 25 metric tonnes of steel and aluminium products annually, amounting to $4.5 billion. Ajaokuta, envisioned as an integrated steel company, was designed to harness Nigeria’s abundant resources and become self-sufficient in steel production. However, its strength lies in its Achilles’ heel – Ajaokuta can only thrive with access to all necessary inputs.

To comprehend the intricacies of steel production, one must understand its elemental components. Steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, requires iron ore, coke from coal, and limestone as its primary ingredients. These components are fused in a blast furnace to yield liquid steel, which serves as the raw material for various steel products.

Nigeria boasts ample reservoirs of iron ore, coal, and limestone, yet translating these resources into viable steel production poses formidable challenges. The iron ore extracted from Nigeria’s Itakpe region, while abundant, suffers from low iron concentration, necessitating beneficiation to meet steel production standards. Similarly, Nigeria’s coal deposits, predominantly non-coking, are ill-suited for steel production, further complicating the equation.

Policy failures have compounded Ajaokuta’s woes, with the project plagued by mismanagement and neglect. The contractual arrangement between the Nigerian government and the Soviet state-owned company, Tiajpromexport (TPE), epitomizes the project’s flawed trajectory. Ajaokuta’s rolling mills were inexplicably constructed before the completion of the steel plant, rendering them operational but devoid of raw materials.

The National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) in Itakpe, designated to supply Ajaokuta with iron ore, remains defunct, undermining the project’s viability. Additionally, the Itakpe to Ajaokuta railway line, essential for transporting raw materials, languishes in a state of disrepair, further exacerbating Ajaokuta’s operational challenges.

The blast furnace, Ajaokuta’s beating heart, lies dormant, symbolizing the project’s unrealized potential. Without the requisite infrastructure and policy reforms, Ajaokuta remains a monument to inefficiency and bureaucratic inertia.

Amidst the gloom, glimmers of hope emerge. Recent efforts to revitalize Ajaokuta, spearheaded by former Minister Kayode Fayemi, offer a ray of optimism. However, piecemeal interventions cannot salvage a project mired in systemic dysfunction.

In conclusion, Ajaokuta’s saga epitomizes Nigeria’s struggle to harness its vast potential. Rather than persist in futile endeavors, the government must relinquish control and entrust Ajaokuta’s fate to private sector expertise. The sale of Ajaokuta presents an opportunity to channel resources towards more viable ventures, paving the way for a renaissance in Nigeria’s steel industry.

As a patriot, I refuse to remain silent amidst the squandering of scarce resources. It is time to confront the harsh realities and embrace pragmatic solutions. Ajaokuta’s legacy may be one of failure, but its lessons must guide Nigeria towards a brighter, more prosperous future.

Source: Kalu Aja

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Biden Administration Bans Sales of Kaspersky Software Over National Security Concerns



The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it would ban the sale of software in the U.S. built by Russian antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab, citing longstanding concerns that the firm poses a significant national security threat.

“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” stated a Commerce Department announcement.

The decision followed a comprehensive investigation which concluded that Kaspersky’s continued operations in the United States posed a national security risk due to the Russian government’s offensive cyber capabilities and potential influence over the company’s operations.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo emphasized, “Russia has shown time and again they have the capability and intent to exploit Russian companies, like Kaspersky Lab, to collect and weaponize sensitive US information.”

Kaspersky, in a statement to AFP, criticized the Commerce Department’s decision as being based on the current geopolitical climate and theoretical concerns. The company vowed to “pursue all legally available options to preserve its current operations and relationships.”

“Kaspersky does not engage in activities which threaten US national security and, in fact, has made significant contributions with its reporting and protection from a variety of threat actors that targeted US interests and allies,” the company asserted.

This move marks the first action of its kind since an executive order issued under former President Donald Trump granted the Commerce Department the authority to investigate whether certain companies pose a national security risk. Raimondo stressed that the department’s actions signal to America’s adversaries that the U.S. will act decisively when foreign technology poses a risk to national security.

While Kaspersky is headquartered in Moscow, it operates offices in 31 countries and serves over 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients in more than 200 countries, according to the Commerce Department.

In addition to banning the sale of Kaspersky’s antivirus software, the Commerce Department added three entities associated with the firm to a list of companies deemed national security concerns. These entities were cited for their cooperation with Russian military and intelligence authorities in support of the Russian government’s cyber intelligence objectives.

The Commerce Department strongly encouraged current users to switch to new vendors, although the decision does not outright ban them from continuing to use the software if they choose. Kaspersky is permitted to continue certain operations in the U.S., including providing antivirus updates, until September 29 of this year. This grace period is intended to minimize disruption to U.S. consumers and businesses and to allow them time to find suitable alternatives.

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N280 Billion Final Approval For Bodo-Bonny Road Project ~ FG



The Federal Government has approved a final N280 billion for Julius Berger Nigeria PLC to complete the Bodo-Bonny road project in Rivers State.

This announcement was made by the Honourable Minister of Works, David Umahi, during his inspection visit to the project site on Wednesday, as reported on the Ministry’s website.

Minister Umahi set December 2024 as the deadline for the project’s completion and urged the contractor to strictly adhere to this timeline, with the goal of resolving the longstanding transportation challenges in Bodo-Bonny once and for all.

“The Federal Government has approved the total and final sum of N280 billion for the completion of Bodo-Bonny road project

“This was revealed by the Honourable Minister of Works, His Excellency, Sen. Engr. Nweze David Umahi CON during his inspection visit to the project site this 19th June 2024. He warned that the contractor handling the project, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, must work round the clock to beat the project delivery timeline of December 2024,” the statement read in part.

Engr. Umahi strictly advised Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. that, regardless of any unexpected challenges or difficulties, the cost of the project will not be increased beyond the approved amount. He insisted that the project must be completed to a high standard.

The Works Minister highlighted the urgency by noting that the project has been ongoing for 11 years and must be finished within this year, setting December 15, 2024, as the deadline for completion.

The statement also revealed that Umahi praised the perseverance of the Bodo-Bonny Peace Committee and the cooperation and integrity of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) in funding the project.

NLNG representative Dienye Godson, on behalf of the company, expressed gratitude to the President and his team for their determination to complete the project.

He noted that NLNG is pleased with the progress and will now review its internal processes to provide as much support as possible to the government.

In response, the project manager from Julius Berger Nigeria Plc. assured that they will continue their efforts without hesitation and will expedite the re-mobilization of the project to demonstrate their full commitment.

He acknowledged the Minister of Works’ statement and emphasized the need for everyone involved to work together diligently as partners to ensure the project’s success.

Back story

The contractor handling the Bodo-Bonny road project, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc., had abandoned the 35.7-kilometer project, which includes 13 bridges: three main bridges, nine mini bridges, and one bridge over a pipeline.

This road is set to be the first to connect oil-rich Bonny Island to mainland Rivers State. The abandonment occurred because Julius Berger was seeking additional funds for the project.

In 2021, Julius Berger requested a review of the contract, but the Federal Government maintained that this was against the original agreement signed in 2017 by the three parties: the Federal Government, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), and Julius Berger Nigeria Plc.

The Federal Government’s refusal to accept the contractor’s request for a variation led to the abandonment of the Bodo-Bonny road project.

In December 2023, the Federal Government directed Julius Berger to return to the site and complete the project, faulting the company for seeking a project variation despite the agreement. However, Julius Berger did not comply and refused to return until their request for an upward variation was eventually approved by the Federal Government in June 2024.

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Olusegun Alebiosu Appointment Validated as New Managing Director, of First Bank



First Bank of Nigeria Limited has appointed Olusegun Alebiosu as its substantive Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.  

Mr. Alebiosu has been serving as the Acting Managing Director of the bank since April 2024, when the former MD, Adesola Adeduntan resigned his position as the MD/CEO of the bank. 

The bank also announced the appointment of Ini Ebong as the Deputy Managing Director. Ini was the bank’s Executive Director in charge of Treasury and International Banking since January 2022.  

The bank also announced the appointment of Omotunde Alao-Olaifa, the CFO of Leadway Holdings as a non-executive Director.  

First Bank of Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of FBN Holdings has undergone significant leadership changes since March 2024, when its MD resigned.  Olusegun Alebiosu Appointed as The New Managing Director, of First Bank

Before Acting as the MD of the bank, Olusegun Alebiosu was an Executive Director with the bank, serving as the Chief Risk Officer and the Executive Compliance Officer of the bank since January 2022. He has been the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) of First Bank since 2016.  

Before joining First Bank as the CRO in 2016, he was the CRO at Coronation Merchant Bank. He was also the Chief Credit Risk Officer at the African Development Bank Group and was the Deputy Chief Credit Risk Officer at UBA. His professional career commenced in 1991 with Oceanic Bank Plc (now Ecobank Plc).  

He is an alumnus of the University of Lagos, where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management. Alebiosu then obtained a Master’s Degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos.  

Alebiosu obtained a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.  

 Management changes in 2024  

In 2024, First Bank of Nigeria and its parent company, FBN Holdings underwent significant leadership changes, starting from January when Femi Otedola was appointed as Chairman of FBN Holdings. 

After Otedola’s appointment as FBN Holdings chairman, on March 20, the group announced the appointment of new Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), including three new NEDs for First Bank of Nigeria. The new NEDs for First Bank were Remilekun Odunlami, Anil Dua, and Fatima Ibrahim Ali.  

Then on April 20, 2024, the CEO of First Bank of Nigeria, Adesola Adeduntan resigned after nine years in charge of the bank, and the following day, April 21, Olusegun Alebiosu was appointed as the Acting Managing Director of the bank.  

On May 9, 2024, Tunde Hassan-Odukale completed his tenure as the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, with Ebenezer Olufowose replacing him.  

The appointment of Alao-Olaifa as a NED brings the total number of NEDs in First Bank to nine.  

FBN Holdings posted a 2.65% loss in the NGX today, as its share price declined to N22.00, with its market capitalization closing at N790 billion.  

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