Ajaokuta and Its Steel – Where Do We Go From Here?

1 Comment » April 1st, 2008 posted by // Categories: Science & Technology



 

Ajaokuta – Where Do We Go From Here?

Leadership (Abuja)

COLUMN
1 April 2008
Posted to the web 1 April 2008

By Andrew Oota
Abuja

Previous governments in Nigeria are believed to have made efforts at tackling the problems militating against the operations of the Ajaokuta Steel Company. Unfortunately, each attempt was scuttled by a gang or cabal of conspirators who believe that the operation of the steel company would mark an end to their selfish gains. ANDREW OOTA, in this piece, provides the various options of getting Nigeria out of the woods.

The power probe in the House of Representatives, by the committee on power is not and, can not be the last of the probes that would turn out to be what many describe as ‘shocking revelations’ if the reforms promised by the present administration from inception are anything to hold on to.

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Aside the constitutional responsibility of the National Assembly members, both the Senate and House of Representatives to make laws for the good governance, the federal lawmakers as well as their counterparts in the state Assemblies are also vested with the constitutional powers to probe and ex pose corruption.

The 1999 Constitutions as well as the standing rules of the two chambers of the National Assembly and the state Assemblies equally provides for the oversight functions in form of checks and balances on the likely hood of executive excesses with a view to ensure the implementation of all budgetary allocations to the various agencies of the executive arm of the government.

As the nation eagerly awaits the outcome of the report of the probe of the alleged $16 Billion questionable spending on the power sector under the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration, the House of Representatives Committee on Power and Steel, the Committee on Privatisation in the House leadership gathered is equally putting its axe together to take a look into the sale of the Ajaokuta Rolling Steel presently owned by an Indian firm.

While Nigerians at the helm of affairs mortgaged the rights of people, the tax payers to have value for money through the provision of steady power supply by siphoning, as it were, monies meant for the power sector, the case of Ajaokuta has remained another big mystery and subject of debate both within and outside the country.

To some people, the sale of Ajaokuta Steel was not just a monumental fraud , it was equally a conspiracy to further subject the country into further importation of some raw materials that could be produced locally if the steel company functions even for one month.

The Sale of Ajaokuta Steel by the Bureau of Public Enterprise under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo , to many, was grossly undervalued , but more surprisingly sold to a company without any pedigree.

This was captured in the report of the Senate Committee on Power and Steel in the last Senate which was chaired by Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe and the present Senate Majority Whip Senator Mahmud Kanti Bello as Vice Chairman.

The motion was moved by a former Senator, Mohammed Ohiare, and in the motion, he told his colleagues that rather than revive the company, Solgas, the company that had the concession agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria to revive the steel company was involved in massive diversion of equipments from the site with impunity.

It was based on these serious allegations and observations that the last Senate directed its standing committee on Power and Steel to carry out an investigation into the running of the company by the foreign firm, the report of the Senator Arthur Nzeribe was straight, as it did not only advise the Federal Government to cancel the sale of the company, it also revealed that the company was grossly under valued by the BPE, and that Solgas did not even have any head office both in Nigeria and abroad.

The issue of Ajaokuta Steel and the perceived conspiracy of some Nigerians with some foreign companies to frustrate the operations of the company has remained one issue that would continue to re-occur until the government of the day uses the right and genuine approach to revive this gigantic company and sets it on its wheels to roll.

Aside the need to reverse the sale of Ajaokuta Steel and giving it to a competent and more committed company, analysts have also argued that in order to dance out of the present situation surrounding and militating the operations of the company would be for the Federal Government to set up a special committee and, make available to it special funds that would enable it complete the project fully and finally.

In many quarters, it has also been argued that, since the tallest obstacle facing the operations of the company is that of completing the project, an independent presidential committee, with a direct and specific mandate to accomplish would perfectly handle the Ajaokuta Steel, after which it would return the gigantic company to its original owners, the Federal Ministry of Power and Steel.

Across Nigeria, the inability of successive administrations to get the right companies that would handle the Ajaokuta Steel is being interpreted to be a huge disappointment and death of the dreams of the funding fathers which dates back to when leaders were patriotic and had the interest of the entire country at heart, rather than selfish and personal interests.

While the committees on Privatisation, Power and Steel of both chambers of the National Assembly would do this country proud by carrying out clinical investigations into the sale and management of the Ajaokuta Steel, it is equally pertinent to stress that the Bureau for Public Enterprise would equally save the country the agony its presently going through by standing firm and insisting on doing the right thing.

Even as there is a dire need for both the Senate and House Committees looking into the happenings in the sale of the Ajaokuta Steel which Nigerians have roundly condemned in very strong terms, the zeal appears to be down in the upper legislative chamber , following recent events and decision of the lawmakers.

This time, it was the Action Congress Senator from Kogi Senator Utaru Ohize who drew attention of his colleagues to the action of Global Infrastructure in Ajaokuta Steel Company. His argument was simple, he called for an investigation in the sale of the company as well as concerns over the monumental loss the country is experiencing, following the inability of government to get a competent company that would handle Ajaokuta Steel.

The unthinkable was what was experienced after the motion was moved by Senator Ohize, as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Power and Steel, Senator Nicholas Ugbane also from Kogi State was the first to puncture the argument of Senator Ohize, for reasons interpreted by some people as conspiracy for selfish ends. Senator Ugbane told his colleagues that his committee is simply on top of the matter and would soon brief the Senate.

To the gallery spectators and judging from the disposition of Senator Ugbane, it was quite certain that the resolution of the Senate at the time the issue was raised was more appropriate and timely , particularly that the issue of the Ajaokuta Steel has remained a serious set back in the bid to move the country forward.

For example, the Ajaokuta turbans are still used in Shiroro Dam, which is another source of power generation for the country, and its non-operation for many years would not only require that Nigeria would continue to import turbans but that the Shiroro Dam would also need to spend heavily to run itself.

While it is even regrettable that BIG, a company with pedigree in the energy sector, LEADERSHIP learnt, bided even higher than the present owners of the Steel Company, yet it was denied the right of ownership The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Privatisation, Ayo Arise, alongside Ugbane insisted the Senate needed to trade with caution, even in the face of suspected fraud.

The Senate bowed to the submission of both Senators Arise and Ugbane, that although the issue was critical and central, the two committees should merely visit the sites and advise the Senate on what to do.

Suffice to say that the slow intervention of the Senate in the sale of Ajaokuta by the BPE is one issue the Nigerian public has certainly frowned at, and the reasons are obvious, a visit to the site would certainly not be a good experience to every patriotic Nigerian who means well for this country.

It is therefore, the hope of many, that the radical wing of the National Assembly, the House of Representatives Committee on Privatisation, the Power committee, would once again take a look at the sale of the Ajaokuta and decisively deal with the issues, but preferably, a public hearing would be the best option in getting to the root of the matter.

The Ajaokuta situation is even more worrisome for the fact that what Nigeria as a nation stands to benefit from the steel company is quite enormous, and the chances are clear that the operation of Ajaokuta would no doubt create another boom and major boost to the Nigerian economy like it is in the case of oil.

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One Response to “Ajaokuta and Its Steel – Where Do We Go From Here?”

  1. bilkisu queen abdulmejeed says:

    i think what the outside world takes nigeria be us a dumping ground where every kind of white skinned can just come and mess around and go free.
    in the first place the greed leaders made the mistake by selling our asset out for how much money and now our mothers and fathers are suffering, tthis thing is affecting us all now. what is the level of activities as for now in the company and how are these workers are going to be paid there arrears salary should be our first piority.

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