By Francisca Oluyole
The Metallurgical Stakeholders Forum has called on the Federal Government to cancel reconcession of the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) to Global Infrastructure Holding Ltd. (GIHL), an India company.
The stakeholders made the call at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday.
The stakeholders comprised the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Nigerian Metallurgical Society, African Iron and Steel Association, Host Community, and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), among others.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NIOMCO, which is capable of generating billions of naira annually, is located at Itakpe, Kogi State.
Alhaji Sanusi Mohammed, the Executive Secretary-General, African Iron and Steel Association, and convener of the news conference, said that the Federal Government should cancel the concession agreement.
According to him, the company lacks competence, trust as well as the ability to manage NIOMCO.
Sanusi said that the first concession of NIOMCO and Ajaokuta Steel company to GHIL in 2004 brought unquantifiable losses to the nation with monumental economic consequences.
He said that Nigeria was short-changed by the Indian company, as it vandalised Ajaokuta steel company and carted away valuable assets from NIOMCO.
NAN recalls that the Ajaokuta Steel Company was concessioned to GHIL between 2004 and 2005 by then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
However, the Indian firm did not live up to expectations as it could not manage the company.
Following the failure of GHIL to manage the company, the Federal Government under late President Umaru Yar’Adua was compelled to revoke the contract.
However, the President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government reconcessioned NIOMCO to GHIL, while it took charge of the Ajaaokuta Steel Company.
With the reconcessioning, GHIL is yet to commence operations.
According to the stakeholders, NIOMCO did not only witnessed poor performance, but also non-compliance of Post-Acquisition Plan (PAP) in terms of injection of funds, while being operated by GHIL.
“GHIL never brought Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into the country as confirmed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but rather orchestrated flight and repatriation of funds from the internal funds it earned from illegal exports of Nigerian assets.
“We have written several letters to the Federal Government on the need to cancel the agreement but to no avail.
“So we decided to come together to covey the same message through the media today,’’ Sanusi said.
Citing the Delta Steel Company (DSC), he said that the Federal Government concessioned and later sold the company built with 1.5 billion dollars in 2005 to GHIL at a paltry 30 million dollars.
Sanusi said the five-man administrative panel of inquiry set up by the Federal Government in 2007 revealed the rot that was perpetrated on Delta Steel Company.
“GHIL in the period of operation in DSC stripped the company down and accumulated more than N40 billion debt it collected from Nigerian banks and used the companies as collateral’’.
Sanusi said that the reconcession of NIOMCO did not go down well with stakeholders as the Federal Government did not involve them.
“This is not acceptable to all the metallurgical stakeholders.’’
Also speaking, Prof. David Esezobor of Extractive Metallurgical and Materials Processing urged the Federal Government to pursue a clear vision as well as clear policies and roadmap to ensure development of the iron and steel sector.
Esezobor said that government should remove all obstacles militating against the growth and development of the sector.
He urged the government not to privatise Ajaokuta Steel Company, till the remaining two per cent and other external infrastructure were completed.
Esezobor said that any attempt to commercialise or privatise the company would not yield the desired result for Nigerians.
He also urged the government to re-establish contact and to initiate negotiation with the original builder of Ajaokuta Steel Company, TPE, a Russian company to complete the company.
He also noted that the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and Alhaji Musa Bello, a Kaduna based entrepreneur were laying claim to NIOMCO, adding that they both had registered the company with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
He said that stakeholders had informed the relevant security agencies to also look into the matter.