Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The modified concession agreement recently signed by the Minister of Mines and Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on behalf of the federal government to transfer the National Iron Mining Company (NIOMCO) located in Itakpe, Kogi State, and Delta Steel Company (DSC) to Indian firm, Global Infrastructure Holding Limited, has been described as fraudulent and skewed against the economic interests of Nigeria by the African Iron and Steel Association (AISA).
This is just as the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) chastised the federal government for insisting on privatising or concessioning of the Ajaokuta steel complex while it is not yet completed.
The association said yesterday at a press briefing in Abuja where it protested the governmentâ€™s decision to invite back Global Infrastructure Holding Limited to take up the companies four years after their sales were reportedly cancelled, was faulty and irresponsible on the part of the government.
They explained that past records of Global Infrastructure Holding Limited in the two firms had indicated that they left Nigeria with monumental losses, but huge economic leverages for them and their country, India, adding that the government has failed in its responsibility to undertake appropriate due diligence on the firm it has given back the firms to.
The President of AISA, Dr. Sanusi Mohammed, told journalists at the briefing that the association had galvanised relevant stakeholders in Nigeriaâ€™s steel industry including the NLC; Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and others to protest the decision of the government as acted out by Fayemi when he reportedly signed the modified concession agreement in August 2016.
Mohammed explained that from the modified concession agreement, Global Infrastructure Holding Limited has further asked the federal government to concede the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line and Warri Port to it to enable them efficiently operate the Ajaokuta Steel Company and DSC.
According to him, the modified agreement and subsequent request from the Indian company are part of steps by the Indian government and other external forces to deprive Nigeria of potentially competing with it in the global steel market, as well as frustrate her independence from importing steel from countries including india.
He noted that recently the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that Nigeria imported steel products worth N23 trillion in the last 10 years, with some of the imports coming from India.
This, according to him meant that a functional Nigerian steel industry was not in the interest of India.
Mohammed also accused several government officials in former President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s government and that of President Muhammad Buhariâ€™s of dishonest and unpatriotic acts in helping Global Infrastructure Holding Limited gain immense advantages in possession of the companies to the detriment of Nigeria.
Following from this, the AISA asked the government to initiate and pursue a clear-cut policy on how to reposition Nigeriaâ€™s steel industry, as well as retrieve the companies from Global Infrastructure Holding Limited.
It further noted that the government can go ahead to complete the Ajaokuta steel complex without concessioning to any company, saying it was 98 per cent completed by the original builders before they parted ways with Nigeria, and can as well be completed by the government.
â€œWhat we are saying in essence is that the processes that have led to the choice of concessionaires have been faulty and produced groups like Global Infrastructure Holding Limited which have done nothing to advance our steel industry.
â€œThe Indian company led by Pramod Mittal, is perhaps acting out external scripts of forces that do not want our steel industry to grow. They have failed to maintain our assets, and we want the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to look into the modified concession agreement signed by Kayode because it is the same document with mistakes that was drawn up in the last government that he signed,â€ Mohammed said.
Similarly, former Deputy President, and current member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the NLC, Isa Aremu, stated at the briefing that it would be uneconomical for the government to continue to push to sell off the steel complex without completing it.
Aremu noted that at the level the complex was abandoned by its original builders who are Russians, the government would only need approximately $420 million to complete it. He added that out of the 43 different units in the complex, 40 have been fully completed with just three left to be completed.
According to him, Nigeria would by its continued delay and mismanagement of the complex, lose trillions of naira that she spends annually to import steel, in addition to the reported assetsâ€™ stripping and mineral theft undertaken by concessionaires in the complex.