The House of Representatives says having passed a vote of no confidence on the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, it no longer has any business with him and does not regard him as a ‘Honourable Minister’.
The House also mandated its ad-hoc committee on Ajaokuta Steel Complex to consider the possibility of a Bill for an Act to provide for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Company and prohibit its concessioning before the completion.
The lawmakers took these decisions on Thursday after resolving to probe the engagement of PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) by the minister to audit the steel complex towards concessioning it.
The decisions arose from a motion by Ahmed Yarima (Bauchi-APC) and 24 others.
Moving the motion, Mr. Yarima said the firm engaged to audit the steel company, PwC, is globally discredited, having been sanctioned in many countries, including India which banned it for two years for infractions of over $1 billion.
He said the firm was also sanctioned in Brazil and paid $50 million as fine, as well as being fined £5.1 million in the United Kingdom in the largest ever sanction imposed by the UK regulator.
“They paid $225 million and $25 million respectively as fines to TYCO shareholders in the U.S and Bank of Tokyo – Mitsubishi, where it was implicated for money laundering for Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar, blacklisted for roles in terrorism and human rights abuses; among other infractions and irregularities in their operations, which has left its reputation in tatters,” he said.
Mr. Yarima said there were allegations that the company was informally engaged by Global Steel to assist and advise it on how to recover Ajaokuta Steel Company and National Iron Ore Company, (NIOMCO) Itakpe from the Nigerian government in 2012 at the onset of negotiations.
He added the company’s antecedents suggest it was engaged to audit and prepare a skewed report in favour of parties the Minister has interest or of its former clients, GINL.
“The Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission both mandated by law under the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act, 2005 and the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act 2004, respectively have not been involved or engaged in the audit and concessioning process adopted by the Minister of Mines and Steel Development,” Mr. Yarima stated.
He alleged that Mr. Fayemi also appointed as transaction adviser, Greenwich Trust Ltd, a firm he said is headed by the wife of the minister’s political mentor, without the input of BPE and ICRC.
He said the minister also turned down other options suggested for the steel complex other than concessioning.
“Almost two years since NIOMCO, Itakpe was again handed over to Global Steel in the so-called modified concession agreement for a seven-year period with an option of a further 10 years, the plant which is integrated with Ajaokuta Steel Complex has remained moribund, which signposts the likely failure of yet another concession,” the lawmaker stated in his motion.
Adopting the motion, the House mandated its ad-hoc committee on Ajaokuta Steel Complex to include the urgent consideration of the possibility of a Bill for an Act to Provide for the Completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company and Prohibit the Concessioning thereof prior to its Completion.
It also resolved to expand the mandate of the ad-hoc committee to further inquire into why Mr. Fayemi engaged a globally-discredited firm, in auditing Ajaokuta Steel Complex without due process and in spite of the fact that the firm had been indicted and punished in many jurisdictions.
The committee was also mandated to inquire into the nature of the conflict of interest that may have arisen on account of the minister appointing a firm headed by wife of political mentor to serve as transaction adviser for the complex.
The House urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop Mr. Fayemi from proceeding further with concessioning processes of the steel complex, pending a review ordered by the House.
The minister and the House of Representatives have repeatedly disagreed on government’s plan to concession the oldest uncompleted steel company in the country.
The Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, after visiting Ajaokuta said the reason the steel company had not been completed was leadership problem, saying sourcing about $500million estimated to be required to complete the company should not be a problem.
Mr. Dogara said the required fund could be sourced through the Sovereign Wealth Fund, Excess Crude Account and recovered financial crimes loots.
He said even if it means borrowing the money, the House would give its approval.
The House recently organized a sectoral debate on the steel industry in Nigeria but Mr. Fayemi did not participate.
The minister, through his spokesperson said he duly notified the house of his inability to attend prior to the debate.
But the House described the notice as a ‘deliberate boycott’ of the event and passed a vote of no confidence on Mr. Fayemi and the minister of state in the ministry, Bawa Bwari.
In another statement on Thursday, Mr. Fayemi responded to the decision of the lawmakers.
“Whilst the ministers are convinced the honourable members mean well as patriots concerned about an important national asset, it is also a fact that they have grossly misunderstood the ministers and other stakeholders working with the ministry on this exercise,” the minister’s spokesperson, Olayinka Oyebode, said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.
“In view of this and the need to set the record straight for the sake of the general public and the investing community, it is important to state as follows:
· The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has not contracted any transactional adviser for the concessioning of Ajaokuta Steel Company, as wrongly asserted by the House.
· The process for the appointment of a Transactional Adviser is on, but cannot be completed until it gets the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
· The Ministry has not spent a dime from the N2,096,500.00 (Two billion, ninety six million, five hundred thousand naira ) appropriated by the House for the concessioning of Ajaokuta Steel Company (in the 2017 Appropriation Law).
· The mediation process that led to the amicable settlement of the legal encumbrances on Ajaokuta Steel Complex has not ended. There are still a few more steps to be taken as outlined in the terms of (out of court) settlement. And the Ministry is following up on this.
· It is also important to state that no one has been hired.
· We find it rather worrisome that the House of Representatives could devote an entire day to an issue that has not even arisen.
“The ministry remains committed to making Ajaokuta Steel Plant function effectively, convinced that steel remains the most important engineering material and backbone of industrialisation in any economy.”
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