BFIGroup Corporation, the Nigerian-American consortium that the Supreme Court confirmed as the winner of the bid for the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), has urged the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite, to respect the court’s order and not play hide and seek over its enforcement.
Counsel to BFIG, Patrick Ikwueto, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in reaction to statements made on a Channels TV programme last Thursday, urged the Minister not to mislead Nigerians.
The letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday urged Mr Adegbite to “stop playing hide and seek and face the facts as they are (details of the ALSCON transaction)”.
BFIG was declared the winner of the bid for ALSCON in 2004 which the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) canceled under controversial circumstances.
The company went to court, till the Supreme Court confirmed it the winner and ordered the BPE to produce the mutually agreed share purchase agreement for it to sign and make the payment. BPE has continued to defy the order.
But, in the interview, Mr Adegbite said BFIG, which was declared the winner of the bid in 2004, could not pay for the 10 per cent bid price for ALSCON despite two opportunities given by BPE.
The Minister said after failing to meet the initial payment timeframe, BFIG again failed to make the payment of $41 million for ALSCON after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 in a case filed to contest the cancellation of the bid by BPE.
“Mr Jaja came into the country with a group of people to bid for ALSCON. They won the bid. But, when they were asked by BPE to pay, Mr Jaja could not produce the funds.
“When he went to court, the Supreme Court said he should be given another opportunity to pay. Again, he could not produce the money within the timeframe. And the bid was given to the reserve bidder.
“Government is not wrong in any form. ALSCON was offered to the reserve bidder. Very shortly they should be able to produce aluminium. The problem is the issue of power generation and gas. Once the gas and power issues are resolved, we should start producing aluminium from ALSCON,” the Minister had said.
‘Minister economical with truth’
In his reaction to the minister’s allegation, the president of BFIG, Reuben Jaja, who also appeared on the programme, accused him of misinforming Nigerians on the facts of the controversy.
“The Minister is wrong. He has been economical with the truth. In fact, I don’t want to say he lied. Either he is ignorant of the facts, or he has been misled by BPE with the same lies the courts, including the Supreme Court, have since 2012 said they told against BFIG,” Mr Jaja said.
He said since 2004, when BFIG won the bid for ALSCON, “BPE has been feeding Nigerians the lie that BFIG could not pay for the company, till 2012 when the Supreme Court declared BPE has not even reached the point of payment.”
“The Supreme Court looked at the facts of the agreements between the two parties (BFIG and BPE) and gave a unanimous ruling of 5-0, that BPE has not even given BFIG the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) to sign, to commence the process of payment,” Mr Jaja said.
He said not only has BFIG approached all the relevant authorities over the matter, “the Consortium filed a motion before the Federal High Court declaring that the BPE has continued to defy the Supreme Court order.”
On December 17, 2018, the court ordered that the DG BPE should be imprisoned for 30 days for his serial disobedience of the order of the Supreme Court over the matter.
BFIG counsel writes minister
In the letter to the minister, counsel to BFIG recalled the background to the ALSCON crisis, which he said began with the unilateral variation by the BPE of a mutually agreed SPA by all parties.
Mr Ikwueto said the action by the BPE constrained BFIG to go to court to pursue its right, resulting in the case going up to the Supreme Court which gave its ruling on July 6, 2012.
Part of the Supreme Court judgment was for the BPE to provide for execution the mutually agreed SPA for BFIG to sign and commence the process of payment.
“If the Honourable Minister crosschecks, he will discover that soon after the Supreme Court’s judgment, the BPE, by letter dated October 2012 confirmed to BFIG the availability of the list of documents to be included as annexures to the SPA.
“Unfortunately, despite the Supreme Court‘s judgment, the BPE and its officials have continued to rigmarole in the enforcement of the binding orders as they were bent on playing hide and seek with RUSAL Group,” Mr Ikwueto said.
By the judgment of January 11, 2019, he said the Court of Appeal in Appeal No CA/A/637/2014 further enjoined the BPE to enforce and comply with the subsisting judgments/orders of the Supreme Court.
But, in forwarding the mutually agreed SPA for execution by BFIG, the BPE omitted the annexures to the SPA, which formed part of the SPA, without which the provisions of the SPA would be rendered meaningless and of no effect.
He said the continued refusal of the BPE DG to comply with the Supreme Court’s order was the reason the Federal High Court on December 17, 2019 ordered that he (DG) should be committed to prison for contempt.
“It is to say the least unpatriotic to insist that BFIG should pay $41 million being 10 per cent of the agreed bid price for ALSCON without availing the BFIG the complete mutually agreed SPA, which, of course, must include the annexures referred to in the SPA. Let us stop playing hide and seek and face the facts as they are,” Mr Ikwueto said.
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