Nigeria: Probe $496m Itakpe Iron Ore Revitalisation Fund, Group Urges Senate

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, has been urged to order the probe of the sum of $496 million paid by the federal government to an Indian firm which failed to revitalise the Itakpe Iron Ore Company after many years of work engagement.

The national coordinator of Transparency Group Network (TGN), a civil society organisation based in Port Harcourt, Comrade Uche Michael, stated this while speaking to journalists on Tuesday.

He noted that the federal government should respect the opinion of over 250 million Nigerians by halting any further transaction on the revitalisation of Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill which is aimed at transferring to foreigners through the back-door contrary to the national interest of protecting the heritage of the nation and National Assets.

Uche expressed worries over the poor system of governance adopted by the federal government through its relevant agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Steel Development and Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment among agencies of the government.

TGN further lamented that despite the presence highly intellectual personalities such as University Professors, Industrialists, members of national assembly, seasoned administrators, captains of Industries, technical and financial consultants among others, “It is unfortunate that our leaders still allow foreigners to fool the entire nation with unrealistic proposals and non-achievable business plans.”

The group commended the National Assembly Joint Committee on Steel Development for passing a resolution to probe the $496million paid by the federal government to an Indian firm which failed to revitalise the Itakpe Iron Ore Company even after many years.

It noted that preference should be given to national companies who can run such plants, ensure employment generation, reduce imports and do away with syphoning out much needed forex and mineral resources.

Uche said: “the Global Infrastructure Holding Ltd., GIHL took over the National Iron Ore Mining Company, NIOMCO, Itakpe, Kogi State in 2016 and got its agreement terminated in 2019 due to non performance.

“GIHL dragged the federal government to court for breach of contract and it was awarded damages to the tune of $496million which had been paid by FG”.

“We are outrightly against the way the federal government is deliberately and ignorantly selling out its national heritage without recourse to the yearnings and agitation of Nigerians especially at this crucial period when the nation is battling with economic stability among other challenges.

“Almost five decades of lost opportunity towards strengthening large scale Steel Production in Nigeria, failed attempts without a proper road map.

It is also on record that Russians and Ukrainians supplied already obsolete technology then in the 1970s.

“We urge the FG and its concerned ministries to carefully dig deep into their Detailed Project Report, Elaborated Business Plan, Capital Outlay and Cash Flow Projections by involving independent agencies and champions of business here in Nigeria.

We are quite sure that the so-called 5B investment from Jindal is a faux pas and an outrightly exaggerated number that will put Nigeria, her assets, resources and general public in total mess again.”

Speaking further, the TGN helmsman added that, “Another blunder was committed by handing over Ajaokuta, Itakpe mines with all the infrastructure and Delta Steel plants to Global Infrastructure Holding Ltd (GHIL), India. They took over the plant and syphoned out all the resources from the country and eventually the country did not get any benefit.

“GIHL was never serious in running the plants and mines at Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, Delta Steel Company and Itakpe. Later, GHIL sold its stakes in Delta Steel Company to Stallion Group under a SPV to Premium Steel & Mines Limited This acquisition was also a marvel of financial engineering by PSML to hide black money generated and syphoned out of the country through their other businesses.

He however stressed that, “When stallion did not get support from the former President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, they had to shut down the PSML Warri business around 2020. Sadly, for the third time, the Federal Government is trying to bring in Chinese and Indian companies to loot the resources from Ajaokuta, Delta steel plants and Itakpe mines.

“Interestingly, the immediate past government had paid the sum of $496million to GIHL as compensation even despite massive public outrage, whereas, these investors are merely looking at Itakpe mines to cater their offshore companies at a much cheaper rate of iron ore supplies.”

The CSO maintained that Jindal-India has been asked to work out takeover proposal back-door without public notice knowing well that several injunctions have been in different Courts of Law even as it warned the federal government to understand that Ajaokuta and Delta Steel Company are obsolete technologies and any company claiming to run and earn profit is just misleading the nation with nefarious intentions.”

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