By SUNDAY ABBA, Abuja
Barely five weeks to the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, attempt by the federal government, through the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, to commence process for the concession and final trade-out of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, (ASC), and the National Iron Ore Mining Company, (NIOMCO), Itakpe has generated concerns and the call for the process to be stopped forthwith has been made.
Reacting to some newspaper advertisements titled: “Request for Qualification for the Concession of the Itakpe National Iron Ore Mining Company Solicited PPP Process’ as well as “Request for Qualification For The Concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited Solicited PPP Process” dated Friday 21st April 2023,
the Social Integrity Network (SINET) a civil society group, in a statement issued following an emergency meeting held in Jos, the Plateau State capital on Monday called on all stakeholders and well-meaning Nigerians to intervene and ensure that the move is nipped in the bud in the interest of the nation.
“The publication further stressed that deadline for the submission of application by interest parties is Friday 12th May 2023 which only provides only four weeks for the completion of process about two weeks to expiration of the current administration (29th May 2023) despite the eight years of two term mandate (2015-2023) given by Nigerians”, the group noted.
It fingered the Minister for Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, in what it described as questionable in trying to do “the bidding of some capitalists whose moves are antithetical to national interest and economic growth”.
SINET National Coordinator, Ibrahim Issah, noted that concession of national heritages such as NIOMCO and ASCL should be subjected to thorough legislative processes and contributions from major stakeholders such as the Manufacturers of Association of Nigeria, (MAN) with considerable time frame.
The group also expressed concern as to why the President Muhammadu-led government is stampeding the entire process when it has only about 34 days to handover leadership to a newly democratically elected government of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stressing the outgoing government should be sensitive to the fact that adequate time is required for genuine participation for equity, fairness and justice to Nigerians.
“There is need for the leadership of the National Assembly, Civil Society Organizations, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to quickly intervene and order immediate reversal of the process in the interest of over 200million Nigerians.
“Failure to do this is tantamount to the fact that Nigeria is sitting on the keg of gunpowder and only waiting to explode. Its explosion will no doubt set the economy of Nigeria backward geometrically and further create some unforeseen consequential repercussions for the incoming administration amidst numerous campaign promises, high determination to deliver as well as high expectations from the electorates,” SINET said.
Speaking further, the group commended the federal government for settling the long-standing contractual dispute with a foreign investor group in the steel industry, by securing a reduction of blackmailing claim of the sum $5.258 billion to $496 million, arising from a mistake it made by dashing away Delta Steel Company which was among her best national steel heritage to a foreign investor without any success story till date as it is lying fallow.
“Delta Steel Company which is supposed to generate employment opportunities for Nigerians and create more economic fortunes to entrepreneurs is still left redundant even after many years of its outright sale-off,” it said.
The group therefore appealed to the Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, to urgently constitute a committee of enquiry and ensure that the process is halted, reversed and handed over to the incoming administration for proper scrutiny and consideration with national interest.