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Senate investigates Ajaokuta steel company over $496m settlement

The Senate on Tuesday resolved to carry out a thorough investigation on the affairs of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Ore Mining Company in Kogi State from 2008 to date.

It planned to unravel the mystery behind the payment of $496m allegedly made to Pramod Mittal, Chairman, Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd by the Federal Government in September 2022 as a settlement over said 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 this effect were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan ( PDP Kogi Central) and exhaustively debated by many of the Senators.

Akpoti-Uduaghan 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.

She lamented that decades after their establishment, the Ajaokuta steel mill and NIOMCO have remained inoperative and unable to produce steel despite seeming efforts by several 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 and is quite saddened that a nation blessed with abundant natural ore resources yet plagued by moribund Ajaokuta and Delta steel that have become conduits pipes for diversion of public funds at the expense of Nigerian tax payers.

She added that there exists an abnormal management structure at the Ajaokuta Steel Complex whereby a Sole Administrator has unilaterally decided upon the steel mill’s corporate affairs for the past 12 years.

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 (all mining company 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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