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Senate probes Ajaokuta Steel over $496m payment

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By Tayo ABIOLA

 

The affairs of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Ore Mining Company in Kogi State are to be investigated from 2008 till date.

Senate resolved to unravel the mystery behind the payment of $496m allegedly made to Mr. Pramod Mittal, the Chairman of the Global Infrastructure Holdings Limited by the Federal Government in September 2022 as settlement over contractual disputes.

It also resolved to investigate the circumstances that led to the re-concession of NIOMCO even when the initial concession agreement was validly terminated by the Yar ’Adua administration with a positive review by the International Chamber of Commerce, London.

Senate’s resolutions to these effects were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan (PDP Kogi Central) and exhaustively debated by many of the Senators.

She said the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Iron Ore Mining Company located in Kogi State were established sometime in the late 70s by the Federal Government with the potential to put Nigeria on the path of technological and industrial advancement and establish the country as one of the leading exporters of steel products in the world.

Akpoti-Uduaghan lamented that decades after their establishment, the Ajaokuta Steel Mill and NIOMCO have been unable to produce steel despite efforts by successive administrations due to a lack of earnest political will and bureaucratic corruption.

According to her, Nigeria currently expends about $3.3bn annually on steel imports.

She said, “This has further worsened the inefficiency of the moribund company with the recently queried 33bn naira electricity debt incurred by Presidential villa.”

The Senate after debate on the motion, consequently set up a committee to be chaired by Senator Adeniyi Ayodele Adegbonmire (SAN) with senators Natasha Akpoti (Kogi Central), Onawo Mohamed (Nasarawa South) Joel Onowakpa (Delta),  Onyesoh Allwell Heacho (Rivers East) Abdullahi Yahaya (Kebbi North), Sen Patrick Chukwuba Ndubueze (Imo North), Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East) and Osita Ngwu (Enugu West) as members.

While the committee is to report back to the Senate in two weeks, they are also to interface with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies and other critical stakeholders in the steel sector especially those with interest in Ajaokuta Steel Manufacturing Plant and NIOMCO to obtain relevant information and submit a comprehensive report to the Senate regarding the affairs of the two plants between 2018 to date.

 

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