UC Rusal said the company was only getting rid of unusable assets.
Workers of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) and Ikot Abasi community youth group have accused UC RUSAL, the Russian firm currently in charge of the management of the company, of stripping the plant of core components with the aim of totally crippling its operations.
The workers, under the aegis of the Metal Products Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (MPSSAN), said UC RUSAL has been dismantling and selling Stem Rods and Anodes, vital components of the plant used in the manufacture of steel ingots.
A spokesman of the workers association told reporters in Abuja that the Russian firm, which has failed to pay the workers’, was also cutting and melting the Bussbar/Risers used in transmitting electric current to the production pots for melting aluminium and selling them as ingots.
Also, 20 fairly-used company cars are said to be slated for immediate disposal.
Industry experts gave the current estimated market value of the Bussbar/Risers, which have never been used since the completion of the plant in 1998, at over N1billion, while each of the about 4,200 Stem Rods and Anodes at the plant are valued at over $100,000.
The workers said the Russians, working through some top Nigerian managers, including Deputy Director (Commercial), Ata Udom; Head of Technical and Potroom Shop, Albert Umoh and one Gabriel Udoh, have since January this year cut and sold off several Anode Stems, with a target to complete the cannibalisation of the plant before the end of this month.
“The Russians have put everything in place to siphon the remaining coke and alumina from the silos for sale. When they took over the plant in 2007, they inherited over 8,000 metric tonnes of alumina; 5,200 pieces of Anode Blocks; 5,820 pieces of cathode blocks; over 8,000 Anode Stems; over 200 tonnes of cryolite and over 170,000 tonnes of cast iron. Why they now want to sale even cast iron blocks, together with the pots, is mind boggling”, the workers said.
A spokesperson for UC RUSAL denied the allegation. Tatyana Smirnova, the director, Communication/Media, described the allegation as “misleading and does not correspond to reality.”
“Presently ALSCON is cleaning its territory from unrealizable assets, obsolete and not suitable for use equipment, which cannot be utilized for production of aluminum,” she said.
“In addition, I would like to emphasize that the acquired equipment is the property of RUSAL and makes a part of modernization program that was implemented from 2007 till 2012. RUSAL has put around $US159.4 million of its own investments into the plant,” she added
But the workers said they were compelled to bring the matter to public knowledge after reports to government representatives on the Board of ALSCON, including the Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Benjamin Dikki, and the Deputy Director (Steel) in the privatization agency, Mohammed Dikko, about the development at the plant failed to yield any official reaction.
“It is clear UC RUSAL is totally determined to cannibalise the plant and render it comatose so that whoever takes over would not be able to put it to productive use again,” the workers said. “We are concerned, because ALSCON is not only our inheritance, but also the place we earn our living. The Federal Government must do all within its powers to halt this brazen sabotage of the nation’s economy.”
Following reports of the asset-stripping of the plant by UC RUSAL, community youth under the platform of ‘Mboho Ikot Abasi’ wrote to the Managing Director of ALSCON, Stanislav Kruglyashav, demanding to meet with him to express their concern, and request for opportunity to tour the facility to verify the allegations. But the request was turned down.
During the meeting, it was gathered that UC RUSAL officials had said the dismantling and disposal of the Stem Rods, Anodes and Bussbar/Riser was to raise some funds to settle pressing financial issues, as the Russian government had since stopped sending subventions to RUSAL.
Dissatisfied by the company’s explanation for its action, the community in a letter to the Managing Director dated August 2 and signed by the President General, Donatus Uko, and Secretary General, Genesis Udoh, the “Mboho Ikot Abasi,” expressed concern over the rejection of their request, saying it must discontinue the “systematic cannibalisation of the plant facilities.”
“We wish to reiterate our earlier advice that you suspend further work on the cutting of Anode Stems and the proposed melting of their aluminium components for sale as ingots as well as the sale of the Stem Nipples to a contractor, which we understand has already been identified and is on standby,” the group said in the letter to the Managing Director, a copy of which was sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
“Equally, the continued stripping of the plant, including the rebagging of alumina and coke for sale should be discontinued. So should also be the dismantling of electrical Busbar Assemblies for sale.
“It is clear that the systematic cannibalisation of the plant facilities is not in the best interest of the plant, particularly in terms of the long term profile. We trust that you will see the issues raised above as of grave concern to the Ikot Abasi Community, who proudly acknowledge ALSCON as their inheritance, and cooperate with us in order to sustain the mutually cordial relationship, which has existed between ALSCON and Ikot Abasi Community.”
The BPE boss, Mr. Dikko, denied knowledge of any letter from the community on the issue, saying he was already on a brief vacation and his way to Katsina State for the Sallah.
“Well, I am not aware of any letter from the community. Even if such a letter were to have been sent, I assure you there is nothing BPE could do about it. Even I was aware, what would you expect me to do? Go and stop them?” Mr. Dikko asked.
When told that BFIG had also claimed to have sent a similar letter to the BPE to intimate it of the issue, Mr. Dikko said “any such letter from BFIG would not be taken seriously.”
“Nobody will act on any letter on the issue from BFIG. They have not been fair to us. All the reports about ALSCON in the media are from BFIG, which is causing us troubles.
BFIGroup’s Executive Vice President, Public Relations, Frank Shearer, in a telephone interview from Abuja said his group was surprised at the level of sabotage of the plant, saying after the confirmation of reports from insider sources; BPE was promptly notified with a view to ensuring that steps were taken to stop further damage.
“Yes, we are aware of the ongoing attempts by UC RUSAL to bring the plant completely down to a state that it would become difficult for any investor to resuscitate the plant and operate successfully after they must have left.
“We feel that the ongoing assets stripping of ALSCON by the Russians, who are supposed to transform it into a national productive asset for job creation and foreign exchange earnings is a deliberate attempt to further undermine Nigeria’s efforts to transform her economy into a leading player in the world,” he said.
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