The test-running of the over $1.3 billion Western Metal Products Company Limited’s (WEMPCO) cold roll steel plant at the Lagos-Ibadan motor-way, Ogun State, came alive on Friday, following which it was flagged-off by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development Mohammed Musa Fada.
According to Lewis Tung, WEMPCO’s group managing director, the plant which has a production capacity of 700, 000 metric tonnes, will produce cold roll steel sheets and coils, from 0.15 millimeter thicknesses and above.
Government over the years has received knocks from industry players and other concerned Nigerians for its failure to design Ajaokuta to produce steel sheets which the take-off the nation industry needs to operate at optimal level. WEMPCO has thus come in to fill the gap the industry has been bedeviled with all these years.
The ministers’ comment at the flag-off corroborated this to some extent. He gave a long list of the product/downstream usage, which includes automobile/truck body building, roofing sheets, pipes, all kinds of metal containers including food storage, steel furniture, strips, enamelware, storage tanks, electric appliances, washing machines, motor cycles, machinery structure and body.
The minister observed that steel is the basic metal and backbone of all industries. Said he: “It facilitates infrastructural development and promotes creation of employment opportunities. In any country, all aspects of industrialisation require steel.”
For him, producing of cold roll steel sheets “is where industrialisation starts”.
He drew attention to the fact that Nigeria’s per capita steel consumption is still very low when compared with what happens elsewhere. Said he: “In a country like China for instance, per capital steel consumption is 400 kilogrammes, whereas in Nigeria we are just close to 18 kilogrammes. At the point when this administration came in, the number was 10 kilogrammes. We therefore have a very large gap to fill.”
According to Mohammed Fada, the federal government has a goal that three million tonnes of steel should be produced in Nigeria a year. He said this did not mean that government would revive its plants to do this but “wish to openly invite more investors for development in steel production”. He said government would introduce policies that would support and encourage investors in the development of the steel sector.
WEMPCO’s group managing director, in his remark said: “We are ready to receive materials from the upstream industry. This is a away to encourage investors to go into the upstream and back stream. The steel industry is the source of employment. Upstream is a source of huge employment opportunities. So also is back stream which accounts for spinoff industries that are not directly related to the steel industry.”