Jonathan to inaugurate $1.5bn WEMPCO steel rolling mill

By The Citizen

President Goodluck Jonathan will on Thursday (today), inaugurate a $1.5bn steel rolling mill built by the Western Metal Product Company Limited at Ibafo, Ogun State.

A statement on Wednesday said the Wempco steel rolling mill was worth $1.5bn and capable of producing 700,000 metric tonnes of steel annually.

Also located in the Wempco steel complex are a ceramic tiles plant worth $500m and a nail production plant worth $200m, the Group Managing Director, Wempco Group, Mr. Lewis Tung, said.

With a combined investment of $2.2bn, Tung disclosed that the entire facility would create 5,500 additional jobs.

According to him, the production capacity of the steel mill represents 65 per cent of the 1.2 million of steel used annually in Nigeria, mostly imported.

Tung said the mill, which would begin the production of cold rolled (flat steel), would depend on imported steel billets for raw materials until it could work out how to transport iron ore from Itakpe in Kogi State.

To ensure adequate and uninterrupted power supply for the massive operations of the complex, the Wempco boss said about $250m had been invested in building a 50 megawatt gas power plant.

Tung said the steel complex, which would be the largest in Africa upon completion, was motivated by the need to conserve foreign exchange resources and the availability of the needed raw materials in the country.

'We realise that importing these products costs a lot of foreign exchange and we thought that since the raw materials are available locally, producing them locally will help conserve foreign exchange,' he said.

He said the huge investment in the complex was a demonstration of the confidence and belief of the Wempco group in Nigeria.

'We have been in Nigeria in the last 40 years with established manufacturing companies producing a wide range of building materials and associated products. This is because we believe in Nigeria and we see a lot of potential in the country and its people,' he said.

The Wempco Steel mill is expected to boost Nigeria's capacity in the production of ocean vessels, train bodies, agriculture steel equipment, earth moving vehicles, coils, flat sheet for round/hollow/square pipes, household electronics casings such as refrigerators, air-conditioners, fan-blade/stands, washing machines, and microwaves, among others.

Tung added that the mill would also enhance the production of office steel furniture for cabinets, desks and stands, containers for chemical, foods and drinks packaging.