Corruption: Senator Akpoti seeks probe of Ajaokuta Steel, NIOMCO

Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, representing Kogi Central senatorial district, on Tuesday, moved a motion to investigate alleged corruption and inefficiency at the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, ASL, and the National Iron Ore Mining Company, NIOMCO, located in Kogi, respectively.

Senator Natasha, in her motion, urged the Senate to investigate the affairs of Ajaokuta Steel and NIOMCO between 2008 to date.

She argued that the investigation should uncover the circumstances that led to the re-concession of NIOMCO, as the initial concession agreement was validly terminated by the Yar’adua administration.

The Kogi lawmaker also sought an investigation into 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.

According to her, 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 percent completion yet remains inoperative to date.

She noted that sometime in 2001, Nigeria’s hope to have the Ajaokuta Steel Plant completed and put into operation was rekindled following the signing of the bilateral Agreement between Nigeria and the Russian Federation.

This idea was unfortunately diminished following the surreptitious concessions of NIOMCO and ASCL in June 2003 to unqualified Solgas Energy Limited, a company she described as lacking both financial and technical expertise as it was uncovered never to be in the business of ore and steel.

She said that the concession of ASCL and NIOMCO complexes took place contrary to the recommendation of the House Committee on Steel in 2004.

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“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 organided 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.

“Also, 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 $496million 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,” she added.

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