By Ebireri Henry Ovie
A lawyer and social reformer, Barrister Natasha Akpoti, on Saturday expressed delight with the high degree of determination so far exhibited by Kogi State governor, Mr Yahaya Bello to move Ajaokuta Steel Company forward.
She also dismissed insinuations of being sponsored by some individuals in the country.
“As a governor, Yahaya Bello must be met daily with tons of ideas. Ajaokuta Kogi Nigeria Limited could have been one of those he ventured into based on recommendations best available to him at that moment in time. I hold no brief for him and I still believe that in the spirit of democracy, his government owes an explanation to the good people of Nigeria.
“However, while focusing ahead, it’s good to know Bello supports the call for TPE of Russia as technical partners and has openly appreciated the resilience of our advocacy. So I chose to hold His Excellency to his words,” she said.
Ms Akpoti, who spoke to newsmen in Abuja Saturday, disagreed with the thinking in some quarters that her recent friendship with Governor Bello was for her own selfish purposes.
“In the past months, there have been some relationships forged between the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and myself. Clearly, we are collaborating towards an accelerated resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company amongst others. This alliance will no way overturn or tamper with our code of ethics and societal ethos which has laid the foundation upon which we seek economic justice for Ajaokuta Steel Company and her captive mine – National Iron Ore Company, Itakpe both in Kogi State”.
According to her, the involvement of the Kogi State government in the alleged lopsided attempted acquisition of the steel complex via a vehicle registered as Ajaokuta Kogi Nigeria Limited as exposed during the March 1, 2018 presentation before the House of Representatives was all true.
“Whether such actions were taken with the full knowledge of Governor Yahaya Bello or not or in the best interest of the state and country or not shall be decided in the course of the House of Reps investigation which commences on Monday, June 4, 2018”
The leader of Ajaokuta/Itakpe Revival Movement provided what may well be an insight into the twists and turns in the journey to revive the steel company
“However, as every journey has a destination, so also before I embarked upon this Herculean task alongside millions of patriotic Nigerians; there was a destination at heart. This was unequivocally to pursue and influence good government decisions towards the judicious revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company and the steel sector in general.
“Without mincing words, we stood against its privatization and pressed for a Government to Government engagement between Russia and Nigeria in order to reengage the original builders TyazhPpromExport (TPE) directly as technical partners for a short term thereby cutting out the middle men/companies to help curb corruption and in turn, yield desired socio-economic benefit of the masses.
“Having set these goals, we embarked upon a journey we had absolute no control of its twists and turns. For three years, a lone voice became a movement of millions. Relationships were bruised, characters were smeared, lives threatened but most importantly patriotism grew as Nigerians from the North to South, East and West found a cause worth uniting and fighting for irrespective of religious and ethnic sentiments,” she said.
The legal practitioner explained that as the case of Ajaokuta Steel Company, there was no cause for alarm as the company was on a sure path of revival.
“On the brighter side, Ajaokuta Steel Company is on a sure path of revival because the much needed political will is being stimulated across the tiers of government.
“I, alongside the reputable Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), African Iron and Steel Association (AISA) and a host of other professional stakeholders are working with the National Assembly to create a set of laws to establish a responsive and protective ecosystem for the steel sector.
“We are also advocating for the establishments of a Steel Development Authority (just like we had in the 70s). The rationale behind this is to promote the separation of powers which are presently mumbled up in the Ministry of Solid minerals.
“In essence, the Steel Authority shall oversee the operations and productivity of the steel sector; while the ministry shall serve as regulators for pricing, policy formulations and others. With all the right collaborations being set in place, however late, I have no doubt the resuscitation of Ajaokuta’s steel complex for the good of Nigeria will be a dream come true”.
Ms Akpoti excitely told newsmen that she decided to forge a healthy alliance to promote an accelerated resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company along agreed common grounds.
“From childhood, after the sudden demise of my father at the age of 49; I developed a great appreciation for the value of time being the most precious of resources. We can always make the money we lose, but never the time wasted.
“In addition, I am also one with great respect for authority especially in this part of the world where the pen is still mightier than the voices of the populace; so I had to apply reason to save time for the greater good of Ajaokuta and its delayed promises to Nigeria and her sinking economy.
“So after the expose of conspiracies on the floor of the National Assembly; wise elders counseled on the importance of managing time and authority. We as a movement had a choice to either spend the next moments agitating about the mistakes of the past or cutting our loses, call on the relevant parties together, especially the stakeholders in government and forge a healthy alliance to promote an accelerated resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel company along agreed common grounds,” she added.
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