10-Member Senate Adhoc Panel to Probe $496m Paid to Moribund Ajaokuta Steel Firm

10-Member Senate Adhoc Panel to Probe $496m Paid to Moribund Ajaokuta Steel Firm

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The Senate yesterday constituted a 10-member adhoc committee to investigate reasons the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Company and the National Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) remained moribund despite the alleged payment of $496 million to contractors handling projects from  2008 till date.

The Deputy Senate President, Barau Jibrin who presided over the plenary announced the composition of the committee.

Barau named senators  Adeniyi Adegbonmire and Suleiman Kawu, as Chairman and deputy chairman of the committee, respectfully.

He  directed the committee to report their findings back to the senate for debate and adoption within two weeks.

The resolution was sequel to a motion sponsored by the senator representing Kogi Central, Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan.

Members of the committee are, Natasha Akpoti (PDP, Kogi Central), Onawo Mohamed (PDP, Nasarawa South), Joel Ewomazino (PDP, Delta South) and  Onyesoh Heacho (PDP, Rivers East).

Others are Abdullahi Yahaya (PDP, Kebbi North), Patrick Ndubueze (APC, Imo North), Tokunbo Abiru (APC, Lagos East) and Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West).

Akpoti-Uduaghan, while presenting the motion identified ‘political will’ and ‘bureaucratic corruption’ as major factors that contributed to the moribund state of the Ajaokuta Steel.

She explained that the investigation would uncover the circumstances that led to the re-concession of NIOMCO.

The Senator urged  the upper chamber to prove the payment of $496m allegedly made to the Chairman, Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd (GINL) by the Federal Government in September 2022 as settlement over ASL contractual disputes.

She said the Ajaokuta Steel and NIOMCO were set up by the Federal Government in the late 70s to establish Nigeria as a leading steel exporter but have been inoperative for decades due to a lack of political will and bureaucratic corruption.

She explained that since 1994, when the Tyazhpromexport (TPE) exited the Ajaokuta Steel on alleged ground that Nigeria did not discharge fully its financial obligation to the TPE, the Ajaokuta Steel was reportedly at 98% completion yet remains inoperative to date.

She said, “After reviewing the Inuwa Magaji Administrative Panel of Inquiry Report on the late President Umaru Yar’adua, the Federal Executive Council unanimously terminated the Concession Agreement on April 2, 2008.

” The termination was due to the operations of ASCL, NIOMCO, and Delta steel mills, as well as breach of agreement and unwholesome practices. Additionally, the Concession Agreement was found to be unpatriotically skewed in favour of GINL.

“The House of Representatives had conducted an investigation into the Iron and Steel Sector in 2018 with far-reaching resolutions aimed at resuscitating the ASCL and ANIOMCO steel mills.

“However, the Federal Government either ignored these resolutions or has not implemented them yet.

“Many steel-producing countries are disturbed by the $253 million organized economic crimes in India.

“Additionally, GSHL’s Pramod Mittal is notorious for engaging in questionable business activities such as embezzlement and asset-stripping in countries like Bulgaria, the Philippines, Libya, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Montenegro, Serbia, and many more.

“In Bosnia, Pramod Mittal, who is associated with GSHL, was arrested and charged with organized crime. Additionally, GSHL’s management staff were jailed for economic crimes.

“However, it seems that Nigeria has fallen victim to Pramod’s sharp contract fraud yet again, in relation to the payout of $496m in 2022.

“This is not the first time, as Nigeria previously conceded NIOMCO to the same GINL in August 2016. Unfortunately, these fraudulent activities are facilitated by unpatriotic Nigerians who hold trusted government positions.

“It is disheartening to note that Nigeria is currently spending approximately $3.3 billion annually on importing steel despite having abundant natural ore resources.

“This is because the Ajaokuta and Delta steel plants, which could have served as valuable assets to the nation, are in a state of disrepair.

“These plants have become channels for the misappropriation of public funds, which is a huge burden on Nigerian taxpayers.

“I am concerned about the management structure at the Ajaokuta Steel Complex.

” It appears that a Sole Administrator has been making all decisions regarding the company’s affairs for the past 12 years without any input from others.

” This has led to increased inefficiencies at the company. Recently, President Tinubu has questioned the 33 billion naira electricity debt,” she said.

The Senate resolved to invite and interface with relevant Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government and other stakeholders involved in the steel sector to find lasting solution to the issue.

Contributing to the motion, Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Solomon Adeola,  complained that salaries and wages of staff of the moribund companies were being paid in dollars.

He said there was a need to reposition the Ajaokuta Steel and make it functional.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Sani Musa,  also complained that the Ajaokuta Steel has been non functional for several years despite the huge funds allocated to it.

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