The House of Representatives Committee on Steel Development has commenced investigation into the alleged fraudulent sale of the Delta Steel Company.
To this end, it invited the managing director of the new owner-Premium Steel-to appear before it Wednesday and explain the company’s role in the alleged mismanagement of the assets worth $1.9 billion.
The company, located at Aladja, Delta state, was reportedly approved for sale by the Bureau of Public Enterprises in 2005 to Global Steel, through privatisation at 80% equity holding of the company to the new buyer.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Abdullahi Halims gave the directive following a walkout staged by Premium Steel and Mine Company Limited’s representatives, leading to a rowdy session at a public hearing Monday in Abuja.
He said the investigation was being carried out in accordance with the provisions of sections 88, 89 and 62 of the 1999 Constitution, which empowered the parliament to conduct inquest into any matter of public interest.
But confusion started when the committee sought the view of Premium Steel and Mine Company Limited.
This followed the outcry by the host community over alleged mismanagement of the steel firm by the supposed new owner, after it was handed over to it by Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON).
While the committee asked for some clarifications from the company’s representative, its counsel, Essien Andrew (SAN) rose on its feet to speak, but was shut down by the committee.
This was based on the rule of the committee that only the managing director or a person in similar capacity would be allowed to speak at such events.
Earlier in a submission, chairman, Udu local government area of Delta state, Jite Brown, had told the committee that the present management had run down the outfit, alleging that officials were also selling off items belonging to the company.
Similarly, a representative of chiefs from the area, Bernard Okiete Nafaga, also testified that the company had failed to live up to expectations, and that the government should take over and resuscitate it.
“I want FG to resuscitate the plant by revoking the agreement given to Premium Steel to run the plant,” he said.
While the firm representatives walked out on the committee, the host community warned that if they were not called to order, they would shut down the facility.
In his presentation, Director General Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) Alex Okoh, who was represented by Acting Director, Industries, Laila Bode, said the company was sold due to unresolved issues.
But the Corporate Affairs Commission disclosed that the company was registered March 2, 2004, and had undergone several changes in terms of ownership structure and assets.
The BPE representative said the outfit was privatised in 2005.
“The Federal Government privatised 80 percent of DSC equity to Global Infrastructure. It was privatised in 2005 to Global Infrastructure. Before the privatization process, it underwent two processes. The first advertisement did not yield much desired results, then it was advertised a second time where BUA emerged as the preferred bidder, but due to unresolved issues with BUA, the FG resolved to engage the willing-seller-willing-buyer strategy”, she told the committee.
In a related development, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila had assured stakeholders in the iron and steel sector of the lawmakers’ commitment to reposition the Metallurgical Training Institute, Onitsha to serve as the hub for training and retraining of needed manpower to drive steel sector in Nigeria.
The speaker spoke at a public hearing on Bill seeking the reconstitution of the institute in Abuja.
Represented by Chief Whip, Hon. Tahir Monguno, the Speaker said the proposed law would reposition the institute, adding that the motion to investigate the sale of the steel company was timely, coming at a point when the nation was the quest to find solution to many of its challenges.
He further said the needed low and middle level manpower for national development could be found if the institute was made functional.