THERE was a time in this country when the Nigerian Steel Industry, particularly the Abaokuta Steel Company and the Delta Steel Company (DSC) were not only great employers of labour but also thriving very well amongst it equals in the global steel industry. But today, all that has changed and words are not even enough to describe the rot that has eaten deep into the country’s steel sector. We believe the Nigerian Power Sector, despite its recent privatization, might end up like the Nigerian Steel sector or even worse, if care is not taken to address pressing issues.
Even with recent reports that the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development said that the Light Section Mill (LSM) of the Abaokuta and Delta Steel Companies would commence production in 2015, we are really not convinced that the ‘past glories’ of the two Steel companies will ever be revived or realized again. This is hinged on a lot of factors, some of which are the same factors that are today playing out in Nigeria’s Power Sector unfortunately.
Like the Privatization that was done in the Power Sector some months ago, the Steel Companies in Nigeria were also sold to private investors who have succeeded in running the country’s steel industry underground. Take the Delta Steel Company (DSC) for instance, it was sold to an India Company in 2005. The DSC was left shut-down for about 19 years after the military era before it was privatized and taken over by the Indians. But it only operated for some time during which it borrowed a lot of money from Nigerian banks. The said Indian company was alleged to owe Nigerian banks to the tune of N31 billion and also several millions to its suppliers, workers and other service providers.
The Nigerian banks were said to have sold the debt to the Asset management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and also had the challenge of replacing broken down machines. It was reported that as soon as AMCON filed its litigation on the Indian-owned company for non-payment of multi billion Naira debts, the company stopped meeting all its financial obligations including paying of workers’ salaries, payments for goods supplied and also increased cannibalization efforts.
The deplorable situation and the pathetic neglect of the Delta Steel Company (DSC), is just one example of the sort of rot existing in the country’s steel industry. Out of the four privatized government-owned rolling mills, only Katsina Rolling Mill was functional. According to the Director of Steel and Non-Ferrous Metals Department in the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Delta Steel, Jos, and Osogbo Mills are yet to commence operation nine years after their privatization. That is how bad the situation is. The Director also noted that they have been discussing and battling with the private investors/owners of these companies to see that they begin operations. And he warned that these are lessons we have to learn as a nation when next we are privatizing.
Evidently but slowly, we are seeing a repeat of this decay in the country’s privatized Power Sector as well. For decades now, the underdevelopment and inadequacies in Nigeria’s Power Sector have grossly affected every other sector in the country that would have greatly improved and guaranteed our socio-economic development and advancement in modernization. In spite of the fact that successive governments have pumped in mind-boggling amounts of public funds to restructure and revive the country’s ailing power sector over the years, there is presently little or nothing to show forth to justify the huge funds expended. Despite the concluded privatization of the Power Sector, it appears some power Distribution Companies (DISCOS); specifically the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), have shown not to have the capacity and capability to handle the Power Distribution network of this zone. As such, BEDC is grossly underperforming.
Aside the unstable level of Generated Power Supply output to the National Grid, that is always hovering between 2000 Mega Watts (MW) to 4000 plus MW (which is grossly inadequate to satisfy the Power demands of the country), there is also the countless problems militating against the effectiveness and efficiency of the nation’s Power Transmission and Distribution networks. All of which contributes to Nigeria’s epileptic power supply that has practically made the country’s economy to be generator-driven; a situation that is adversely affecting Nigeria’s prospects for foreign investments and needed industrial development. In the midst of all these, promises are still being made, projections are still being declared by the government and its relevant Authorities in the Power Sector, most of which are doubted by Nigerians owing to dashed hopes of such promises/projections in the past.

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