The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited is a metaphor for the entire Nigerian steel industry – huge in potential but empty in delivery. The Federal government-owned company was conceived and built to be the stimulus for the steel industry which is supposed to be the bedrock of the country’s industrialization. But, for forty years, the steel company, built to completion, has been lying fallow, producing no iron and starving Nigeria of the needed iron and steel inputs for industrial development.

Determined to redress the situation, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu decided to make steel development a key focus of his Renewed Hope Agenda. He created the Ministry of Steel Development out of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and put a young man, Prince Shuaibu Abubakar Audu, in charge.

The mandate of Prince Audu, 43, an investment, finance and assets management expert, as the Minister of Steel Development, is to breathe life into the steel industry and make it the nerve centre of the country’s industrialization.

In less than one year in office Prince Audu has set off a chain of activities that have raised hope that reviving Ajaokuta Steel Company is not a mirage and making the steel industry the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialization is possible. One of the first things he did was to undertake a tour of Ajaokuta Steel Company in Kogi state. The minister who was accompanied on the trip by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mary Ogbe, Staff of the ministry, and some foreign investors, said that the visit was aimed at giving him first-hand knowledge of the problems stopping production in the company in a bid to proffer solutions.

He explained that President Bola Tinubu was also interested in the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex by appointing him as the pioneer minister to show the world the importance of steel development to industrialisation.

“We want to thank the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for having the vision to create a Steel Development Ministry. Over the past 40 years, we had the largest steel plant in Nigeria and one of the largest in West Africa which has not functioned but the President knows that in order to industrialise Nigeria, we have to get the steel industry working.

“In line with the 8-point agenda of the ‘Renewed Hope mantra’ of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the key elements are job creation, diversification of the economy and attracting foreign direct investment. If we are able to revitaliseAjaokuta, it will help us achieve this. This key point agenda will also help us eradicate poverty,” Prince Audu said.

He disclosed that his ministry had put together two documents. One of them was a three-year plan for the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company which would have a small and medium-term term plan.

“Part of the things is the roadmap to designate the 24,000 hectares land of Ajaokuta an industrial park, to create a free trade zone that will further attract foreign direct investment. In addition to the three-year plan, the five-year plan would also seek to ensure the production of steel in other parts of the country.

“My job is to try and ensure that all those typical issues that have held the plant from producing will be resolved. And by the first term of this administration, if we are able to produce some sheet of steel, it will be a significant achievement.

“I have taken an extensive tour of the complex and plants, and there are lots of opportunities that, if we are able to unlock, we will be able to create over 500,000 jobs which will benefit Kogites and more importantly, Nigerians.

“This will also guarantee that everyone benefits from the renewed hope agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,” he said.

The minister was also accompanied on the tour by potential foreign investors and experts who had shown interest in investing in the steel industry to unlock its potentials.

He said the investors would carry out an advanced technical audit of the steel complex and its facilities to see what more was to be done.

“I am being accompanied here today by investors who are ready to put their expertise to ensure that this steel company works. We have the Russians, Americans, Arabs and Chinese who are showing interest. They have come to show their desire to carry out an advanced technical audit to see what needs to be completed.

“After my findings from here, we will forward everything to the President for his approval,” Mr Audu said.

He explained that he began his tour of office at the Ajaokuta Steel Company and the Itakpe Iron Ore Mining Company Limited, the two places which host the biggest investment and deposit of Steel production and Iron Ore in Nigeria and West Africa, because of their significance to the development of the entire steel sector.

Since that tour, Prince Shuaibu Audu has rolled out well thought out initiatives that are already putting the steel industry on the right path to revival. He has deployed undying passion and utmost creativity to ensure that the vision and blueprint of President Tinubu in the Ministry of Steel Development are realized. Prince Audu is exploring the possibility of securing up to $5 million funding from the World Bank to finance the 10-year roadmap for the steel and metals sector. He has also commenced discussion with Russia’s TyazhPromExport (TPE) Consortium, the original equipment manufacturers and developers of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, to explore options available for reviving the company. This collaboration and partnership equally had another leg to it with the same mission of securing funding of at least $2 billion for the revamping of the same Ajaokuta Steel Company. The minister is also at the concluding stages of raising N35 billion (over $30 million) from local financiers for the revival of the Light Steel Mill (LSM) at Ajaokuta following earlier approval from President Tinubu to raise private financing.

Prince Shuaibu Audu is working towards the establishment of a compressed natural gas (CNG) park at the Ajaokuta Steel Complex in order to tap into the N100 billion fund set-up by the federal government, as a major step to bringing back to life, the economically viable industry. He is at the forefront of making the federal government fast track efforts at reviving steel facilities and research centres in Jos, Plateau State and the National Steel Raw Materials Agency, Kaduna.

Prince Audu understands the enormity and crucial nature of the office he is occupying, and understands that Nigerians are eager to see things work, hence his commitment to ensuring that the expectations of Nigerians are met. The Minister acknowledges the place of steel development in the economic rejuvenation of the country and wants to see that the steel sector plays that crucial role in the actualization of the Renewed Hope mantra of the federal government, thereby earning the confidence of the masses. He is building formidable goodwill for the President, and the federal government at large.

Born to the family of the Late Prince Abubakar Audu, an astute banker and first civilian governor of Kogi State, Prince Audu obtained his Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Business Economics with a second-class upper from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom in 2001.

He went further to acquire his Master’s degree in International Securities, Investment & Banking (ISIB) from the Henley Business School, University of Reading. Prince Audu bagged another Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Following the completion of the mandatory National    Youth Service (NYSC), he began what is now a glittering 20-year-career in corporate and investment banking, as well as assets and pension funds management, with Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc in 2003 in the Global Market treasury division.

By 2005, he became the Head of Investment Management Stanbic IBTC Pensions when the Pension Reform Act was signed into law by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Audu led the establishment’s efforts to set up Stanbic IBTC Pension Managers Limited which is currently the largest pension funds administrator in Nigeria. He eventually got promoted and appointed as the Divisional Head, Investment Management of the Group between 2008 — 2013.

Afterwards, Prince Audu moved on to the assets management company of Stanbic IBTC where he rose to become an Executive Director of the subsidiary from 2013- 2023. Concurrently, he was also named by the board as the Chief Executive Officer of the venture capital, Stanbic IBTC Investments Ltd, and held the position from 2013-2023.

During his 20-year-old career, he spent time working in several banks around the globe including Bank of New York Mellon in Boston and Credit Suisse’s global headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

Burning with the desire to contribute to the growth and development of his state with the skills and experience he gathered in the private sector, Audu ran for the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket in the 2023 primary elections in Kogi State.

After the contest in which he came fourth, he ignored the option of taking legal action and threw his weight behind the party’s candidate.