Ajaokuta Steel Company Advocacy
Since 2015 till date, Natasha Akpoti has been the fore advocate for the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Company situated in Ajaokuta town within her local district in Kogi state. She started by putting out two public petitions on change.org in October 2015 titled;
- A plea to revive Ajaokuta Steel Company
- Immediately terminate arbitration with ISPLAT/GSHL and appoint TPE to complete Ajaokuta Steel Company limited
Natasha’s advocacy could be termed as “disruptive” and she over time became known as a patriotic nationalistic rebel nicknamed the “Queen of Steel” due to the aggressive and resilient manner in which she tackled the Minister of Solid Minerals Hon. Kayode Fayemi and bulldozed her expose on the long hidden corruption and conspiracies which took place over the years which stalled the completion and operations of Nigeria’s and one time Africa’s largest Steel complex – Ajaokuta. Natasha spoke against the reconcessioning of National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) to Global Steel Holdings Limited (GSHL) because of their roles in the vandalization and run-down of NIOMCO, Ajaokuta Steel complex and Delta Steel which caused the termination of their erstwhile concessioning by late president Umar Yar’Adua. Furthermore, Natasha speaks for a Government to Government engagement of Ajaokuta’s Original Builders TyazhPromExport (TPE) a subsidiary of Rostec to serve as technical partners to the project and she stands strongly against the privatization of Ajaokuta steel complex because she believes that “Every government has business in doing business especially in major sectors which affects the national security with regards to job creation and defining foreign trade policies. It’s wrong for a government to rely on privatization as an escape route for its inefficiencies. If the problem is the civil service, then there should be an overhaul because there are many smart and hardworking Nigerians both at home and in diaspora who can understudy the technology for a short period of years under TPE’s tutelage and operate henceforth a solely Nigerian owned public enterprise.”
The struggle of course came with heavy blows with smear campaigns to discredit her advocacy as one sponsored to sabotage president Buhari’s government. Natasha refuted: “I never received a penny from no one; neither did I settle for promises in kind to malign everyone connected to the Ajaokuta’s conspiracy. All I did was out of share patriotism and love for my country Nigeria. I exist today as a direct product of the relationship between the Soviet Union and Nigeria sake of the big industrialization dream both nations shared. It breaks my heart when I watch the steel mill deteriorate by the year and it direct correlation, the collapse of Nigeria’s economy due to its inability to diversify from the oil sector. All I have done is contribute my quota via citizen participation towards nation building, which I believe is a right in any democratic practice. Rather than being torn apart by the neocolonialist cabals, I expect to be appreciate so many more Natashas can arise and forge fights against corruption in other to save other critical dilapidated sectors such as electricity, healthcare etc . We can’t fold our arms and wait on the government to do it all, and we must collectively play our parts in nation-building”.
Natasha’s lone voice of 2015 turned into a movement of millions of Nigerian supporters within and in diaspora who connected to her transparent, diligent and life-risking advocacy. Her advocacy climaxed on the 1st March 2018 when she made a expository presentation of facts before nation on the floor of the National Assembly’s plenary debate on the Nigeria’s steel sector. Shortly after Natasha’s shocking revelation and call for action; the National Assembly took urgent steps to:
- Amend the privatization bill by expunging Ajaokuta steel from concession list.
- Create a $1b lifeline funding for the revival of Ajaokuta steel company
- Commenced drafting a set of laws to protect the development of the Nigerian steel sector.