Abdul-Akaba-Sumaila

By Yusuf Mohammed

The future is technology. And with each passing day, we are moving closer to a time when Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become the order of the day. In one of my articles in the past, I asked how prepared are we in Nigeria for a future of robotics?

Experts have warned that oil will dry up in the future. I don’t think we should wait till then for us to look at other ways to generate money.

Nigeria is endowed with numerous mineral resources: one of them is steel.

We have a steel industry in Ajaokuta, Kogi State. Reviving this steel plant will serve as the backbone of industrialization of our country. The benefits of having a functional steel industry will translate to a functional country. The importance of steel to economic development and growth has not been overemphasized.

Historians would tell you that the present material civilization has been largely due to man’s knowledge and application of metals. Without metals, there would be airplane, railways, automobiles, ships, turbines, electric motors and generally no electrical power.

Apart from these big things, the simple things such as knives, razor blades and forks would not be produced without steel.

Rapid advancement in technology may make other things less relevant, but not steel. In fact, the value of steel will go up in the future.

Past administrations were somewhat paying lip service to the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Plant.

In an interview with Bloomberg in February 2016, Mr. Kayode Fayemi who was the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, spoke about the current administration’s zeal to revive Ajaokuta steel. He said ““Ajaokuta steel mill is one of the major issues we have put on the table. It will be revived by this administration.”

Due to the failure of past administrations to keep to their promise, I took it his words a pinch of salt.

However, when engineer Abdul-Akaba was hired as the Sole Administrator of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex (ALSCON, I knew it was no longer business as usual. As part of the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to diversify the economy away from volatile oil revenue, I see Abdul-Akaba’s appointment as a round peg in a round hole.

Since being at the helm of affairs, he has worked assiduously for Ajaokuta to be revived. As an engineer, who was a senior Adviser, Government Relations with Shell Petroleum, Ajaokuta Steel is in the right hands.

Engr. Sumaila Abdul Akaba leads other engineers at Ajaokuta Steel Plant to fire up the moribund power plant after 40 years
Engr. Sumaila Abdul-Akaba with other engineers at Ajaokuta Steel Plant to fire up the moribund power plant after 40 years

A manager is very crucial to the success of any organization. We see it in football. One prominent example was when Russian billionaire, Roman Abrahamovic took over Chelsea FC in England. He wanted the club to compete for the highest honours. As a result, he hired Jose Mourinho who succeeded in taking the club to the zenith of English football.

In a layman’s language, this appointment “no be by mouth.” Buhari has obviously matched his words with action.

In the coming months or following year, I am confident that there would be visible efforts by this administration to get Ajaokuta steel plant kicking.

The Ajaokuta Steel Complex which is Nigeria’s only aluminum smelting plant was shut down in 2014 following crippling protests embarked upon by the company’s staff against poor work conditions, dwindling productivity and spiraling debts.

The management of ALSCON, Russian aluminum giant, United Company RUSAL PLC, dismissed almost all local personnel of its workforce, while the Ajaokuta Steel Company has been moribund for years.

According to Kayode Fayemi the government was emphasizing solid mineral development as a vehicle for diversification of the nation’s economy. He stated that mineral resources had contributed significantly to the GDP and revenue.

“This year alone, we have exceeded the target given to us. If you look at the Bureau of statistics report, you will see that the two sectors that have contributed immensely to the GDP are agriculture and solid minerals.”

While stating that mineral resources had been contributing significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, Fayemi said his minimizing had already exceeded its target for the year.

Abdul-Akaba replaced Joseph Isah, who retired from the civil service in September 2017, having attained the mandatory 35 years in service.

He was a trained engineer and project manager, as well as a fellow of the Nigeria society of engineers. Prior to this appointment, he was a senior Adviser, Government Relations with Shell Petroleum Development Company.

The engineer was also at the British American Tobacco, BAT. A former colleague describes him as “jovial and accommodating fellow.”

He holds a Bachelor of Engineering, precisely Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ilorin and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Business School Netherland

He acquired his secondary education at Abdula Aziz Atta Memorial College, Okene, Kogi State.

Abdul-Akaba is a husband and a father of four kids.