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Ukraine will help revamp Ajaokuta Steel Company – Envoy

Steel News - Published on Tue, 15 Jan 2019

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Leadership Ng reported that as the federal government and major stakeholders seeks possible solution to how the Ajaokuta Steel Company, which has been lying fallow for years, could be revived and better positioned for the benefit of Nigeria, the Ukraine government says it is willing to help revamp the steel Company. In this interview with OMONU NELSON, Dr Valerii Aleksandruk, Ukraine Ambassador to Nigeria made the revelation and provided perspective to its growing socio- economic relations with Nigeria.

Q - The number of Nigerians seeking Ukrainian visas has been on the steady rise. What factors could be responsible for this socio – economic boost?
A - Ukraine had a good relationship with Africa even before its independence, especially through its activities in the United Nations. In the years of the membership of Ukraine in the United Nations, it was closely related with the African continent. Ukraine was one of the strongest fighters against colonialism, apartheid and race discrimination. Being a member of the UN Special Committee against apartheid for many years, Ukraine struggled against discrimination and inequality in Africa.

Ukraine considers Nigeria an important partner, especially in the area of trade and investment. Our relationship has developed quite well in recent years. In the economic field, Nigeria is already one of the most important commercial partners of Ukraine in Sub-Sahara Africa.

I believe that there are lots of areas where we can deepen our relations and develop them further, such as in the areas of agriculture, mining, renewable energy and infrastructure, where Ukrainian companies have great expertise.

The presence of several Ukrainian companies in Nigeria is a testimony to the level of confidence my government has in Nigeria. We are very pleased to see that more and more Ukrainian companies are looking for new opportunities in Nigeria. Ukraine is encouraging more of its companies to come into Nigeria and invest as well as establish partnerships with Nigerian companies.

The great mutual interest to economic cooperation was proved also by the first Ukrainian Trade Mission to Nigeria on April 3 to 8, 2018. The delegation was headed by Trade Representative of Ukraine – Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, Ms Nataliia Mykolska. We are planning to establish an intergovernmental joint commission with Nigeria and it will cover the whole range of political, economic and security areas. There are many areas in which we can move further and deepen our very close cooperation. The growing number of Nigerians seeking Ukrainian visas has been on the steady rise in the last few years. This is an indication of our cordial relations. Currently about 5,000 students from Nigeria are studying in Ukraine.

Thousands of Nigerian students graduated from Ukrainian universities and became prominent specialists in their branches of knowledge – first of all medicine, high technologies and oil & gas industry.

The professionalism of the medical specialists who got their education in Ukraine is recognised all over the world. Lots of them go working abroad but majority return to the fatherland and are very helpful there. Last year, the number of visas issued for Nigerian students has doubled. It is increasing with every passing year. So, Ukraine-Nigeria relations have a bright future!

Q - The Nigerian government expects support from your country especially now that it has moved to revamp the once neglected Ajaokuta Steel Company. Is Ukraine willing to salvage the company?

A - The Ajaokuta steel plant is a key factor in the industrialisation of Nigeria. Without Ajaokuta steel plant it is impossible to fully meet the country’s demand for metallurgical products. The plant was designed and built by Ukrainian Engineers. Ukraine is interested in further participation of its companies in the Ajaokuta steel plant reconstruction. Our experts are ready to take part in this project. I know that a number of Ukrainian specialists already successfully work on this project on the spot. Presently, as efforts are geared towards the rehabilitation and resuscitation of the plant, most of the engineers that would be involved are also from Ukraine.

Some of the Companies showing investment interests in the Ajaokuta Steel Complex rehabilitation are from Ukraine. The delegation of the Ukrainian National Foreign Economic Corporation “Vazhmashimpeks” headed by Director General YM Kozik visited Nigeria to discuss the issue of corporate involvement in the reconstruction of Ajaokuta metallurgical plant. The delegation met the Chairman of Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, Chairman of the Committee on Industry S.Egwu, members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Parliament of Nigeria, the Director General, Bureau of State Enterprises W.Akpoter.

The delegation of “Vazhmashimpeks” was also received by President of the Senate Bukola Saraki.

During the meeting, which was attended by senators, representatives of the Government and business circles of Nigeria, the head of the delegation made presentation of capabilities and achievements of Ukrainian enterprises, manufacturers and exporters of metallurgical engineering.

The President of the Senate expressed interest in cooperation with Ukraine. The delegation of “Vazhmashimpeks” met Minister of State for solid minerals Abubakar Bwari and made presentation of the Road Map for rebuilding the metallurgical plant in Ajaokuta. The proposed plan was supported by the Ministry of Trade and Economic Cooperation of Nigeria. The delegation with the Chairman of Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and senators of the National Assembly of Nigeria visited Ajaokuta metallurgical plant and took part in the meeting with leadership of the metallurgical plant.

The delegation also visited light-section rolling mill of Ajaokuta steel plant, the work of which was resumed by Ukrainian specialists. Following the visit of the delegation of “Vazhmashimpeks” to Nigeria, there were the parliamentary hearings in the National Assembly of Nigeria with the participation of heads of committees of the Senate, senators and members of parliament of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Nigeria who expressed interest in cooperation with Ukraine.

I discussed the issue of participation of Ukraine’s state company in the reconstruction of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant during my meetings with the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Nigeria, Vice-President of Nigeria, Head of the Committee of the Senate of the National Assembly of Nigeria, the State Minister of Industry, Trade and Investments of Nigeria and the Minister of Solid Minerals of Nigeria.

According to the decision of the London Arbitration Court, the Ajaokuta Steel Plant has returned to Nigeria’s state ownership and the government is currently considering options for further operation of the plant: sale, concession or joint venture. Priority is given to the transfer of the concession. As Ukrainian side was informed, the legal process of nationalisation of the enterprise will be completed soon and an open tender will be announced.

Q - How long have you been in Nigeria? And what is your perception of Nigeria?

A - I have been in Nigeria almost four (4) years. I am very pleased to be appointed as Ambassador to the very important country that plays key role, not only in the region of Western Africa but in the entire African continent and in the world.

Q - Ukraine pays special attention to developing deeper relations with Nigeria. As the Ukrainian Ambassador, I am doing my best to promote our relations to the level never seen before. It is a pleasure to note that Ukraine and Nigeria enjoy fruitful cooperation for many years.

A - From the Ukrainian point of view, the level of development of Ukrainian-Nigerian relations in the political, trade and economic, educational, military-technical and other spheres is rather high and has a great potential, which needs to be realised, including diplomatic ways.

In our view the potential of bilateral relations in different area is far from being exhausted. Industrial and technological capabilities and achievements of Ukraine can be successfully used for realisation of large-scale projects in Nigeria in the energy sector, infrastructure, and industry.

Nigeria is a great country. Taking this opportunity, I would like to wish all Nigerians a Happy New year and to pass successfully all challenges that Nigeria faces today as well as every success in building prosperous and peaceful country.

Q - Your country has been in conflict with Russia for some years now, what exactly is the bone of contention?
A - Historically and geographically Ukraine belongs to Europe. After its independence in 1991, our country has chosen a European way of development. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation still harbours imperial aspirations to keep Ukraine in the zone of its interests, while Ukraine is confidently moving towards Europe. Ukraine signed an Association Agreement with the EU, and commercial trade with the EU is now developing successfully in the Free Trade Zone.

Ukraine also received a visa-free status in its relations with European Union. Russian aggression against Ukraine began immediately after Ukraine made a clear European choice. Crimea peninsula, the autonomous part of Ukrainian state, was roughly occupied by Russian troops. The separatist groups in the East with strong Russian support control a part of Ukrainian territory. Unfortunately, Russia is not complying with the Minsk Agreements and Russian troops are prolonging their presence in the East of Ukraine, supporting the terrorist organisation. Russia is continuing escalation by committing numerous unlawful actions and violations of the international law that proved the unreliability of Russia as a partner. Claiming peaceful intentions, Moscow continues regularly to supply the Donbas terrorists with weapons and other reinforcements.

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Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Tue, 15 Jan 2019
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