. . . as FG re-concedes ASCO, NIOMCO to Indian company
Hon. Ajanah Muhammed Kabir who represents Adavi/Okehi Federal Constituency in the National Assembly is the Vice Chairman, Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways. In this interview with Francis Kadiri, Hon. Ajanah insists that the Federal Government must review the terms under which Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASCO) and National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO) were recently re-conceded to Global Infrastructures Holdings Limited (GIHL) of India, citing the questionable antecedents of the company as reasons. He also discussed the ‘sustainable achievements of the Yahaya Bello administration of Kogi state.’ Excerpts.
Kogi state is host to two significant national treasures – Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASCO) and the National Iron Ore Mining Company (NIOMCO). The Federal Government recently re-conceded the companies to Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd (GIHL). What is your take?
I am an elected representative of Okehi/Adavi, so Ajaokuta is in my purview in that regard. GIHL has very bad antecedents with the communities that host it. I recall that at some point in time when Global Infrastructure was first saddled with responsibility of managing NIOMCO, the company had a faceoff with its host community, it resulted in many deaths. Some people were also sent out of business on account of that crisis.
Has the host communities benefitted from CSR executed by the companies under GIHL?
No. Till date, at no time did GIHL make NIOMCO or ASCO beneficial to the communities to the extent that it should make the host community feel its presence. The company has not executed a task in fulfillment of Corporate Social Responsibility. They sank no boreholes, constructed no roads, and have even failed to manage the company efficiently.
How would you describe the terms under which NIOMCO and ASCO were recently re conceded to GIHL?
It is disheartening that the sixteen-page document which concedes NIOMCO and ASCO to GIHL lack merit in terms of respect for the host community. So we hope for grace on the part of the host community to kindly accommodate the Indians. Naturally, it is somewhat difficult for the host community to trust and happily accommodate GIHL because there has been betrayal of trust. Of course the resources belong to the federation, but there are laws that provide for compensation of host communities via CSR.
How can this anomaly corrected?
The solution is that government must go back to the drawing board and capture the host community in the MoU that concedes NIOMCO and ASCO to GIHL.
Government should not place the citizen and host community at the mercy of foreigners. Secondly, GIHL must be compelled to adhere strictly to the laws governing operations in this country by fulfilling its corporate social responsibilities to the host community. In the absence of these, the agreement can at best be described as lopsided effort that negates the well-being of the host community.
Another heart-breaking shortcoming associated with GIHL is its failure over the years to meet financial obligations to workers as well its inability or refusal to pay back loans it took from banks. This reputation does not encourage confidence of the people in a corporate entity called GIHL.
When the Minister of Mines and Steel Development appeared before us, we made it clear that he must ensure that the second coming of GIHL to ASCO and NIOMCO must be based on people-oriented policies, which will be in the mutual interest of the foreign investor (GIHL in this case), and the host community.
So the host communities must be included in the negotiations that gave rise to the agreements.
If this done, then the Indians too will fell at home in the host communities.
I tell you with all sense of responsibility that if these considerations are not embraced, the peaceful people of Ajaokuta and Itakpe would feel offended when injustices are meted out to them. I hope that we will be prudent enough to avert whatever can give rise to an uprising of steel avengers.
It is very sad that ASCO and NIOMCO, despite their enormous potentials for job and wealth creation, have not realized been able to contribute to national development.
The leadership of APC in Kogi state has been pitched against the governour for what they describe as his refusal to carry them along. What is your take on this?
To be frank with you, there are so many things that people fail to understand. The fact is, in politics, we disagree to agree. When a leader refuses to concede to another leader’s opinion, they should both understand that everyone has a right to his opinion.
Being in public office is like going to school; you meet a curriculum and it is reasonable to follow it. It is wrong to design your own curriculum away from the one in use. Every new entrant ought to follow the school curriculum which will form the basis on which he will be tested. But in Kogi central, the politicians want to discontinue this hallowed trend. They are too eager to condemn leaders. For this reason, politicians will always argue that they have tried.
So the basic thing that all stakeholders must understand is that Kogi state has a governour that is recognized by law as the leader of the party and the state. As far as I’m concerned, he has done very well and has carried everybody along.
What is your assessment of the Yahaya Bello administration?
In any society, the youth is the engine room of any society. God has given Kogi state the opportunity to have a youth and bright start at the helms of its affairs. I believe very much in Gov Yahaya Bello.
Discussing the steps he has taken to reposition Kogi state, I will start by reminding Nigerians that Gov Yahaya Bello inherited Kogi state when it was in comatose. As a young man of great vision, he began to take steps to correct the mess. One of the earliest steps he took was the screening of the state’s workforce in order to ascertain the correct number of people that should earn from the meager resources of the state.
One remarkable policy in force is that the administration is currently strengthening the various institutions in order to reposition them for effective service delivery in the interest of the citizen.
The masses need jobs. What is your assessment of the government in terms of jobs creation?
Governour Yahaya Bello’s agenda for empowerment is one of the most comprehensive and realistic plans you can get in the country. The state has keyed into the resource diversification agenda of the federal level. As you are aware Governour Yahaya Bello will take advantage of the potentials of the state and embark on agricultural revolution while also harnessing the job creation potentials of all other sectors. As we speak, the administration has designed a roadmap for the harnessing of mining sector. The roadmap is designed to ensure conducive environment for growth of mining businesses in the state. This strategy alone has the capacity to attract a lot of foreign investments to the state. In order to strength the inflow of foreign investments, the administration has already awarded contracts for infrastructural revolution in the state especially the construction of roads to create the needed linkages, so that prospective investors can get access to the state’s abounding natural resources.
Fear has been expressed in some quarters that the administration may not be able to pay the large number of contractors it has engaged on various infrastructure projects. What do you say?
Before his election as governour, Yahaya Bello has demonstrated the ability generate resources when you think there can’t be. So I don’t think we nurse any fear in the ability of his administration to complete the great works he has started. Early enough, he distinguished himself during his days at the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RAMFC) where he managed resources prudently to achieve set goals.
Apart from that, as a successful business man, I’m certain he will not run into financial crisis.
I tell you with all sense of responsibility that Kogi state is at best in terms of financial prudence. So we should continue to rejoice since we have a government that is people oriented and accountable to the electorate.
Another area that stands him out from others is the exceptional quality of his team. They are not just young people, but they are people with a track record of distinctive achievements. This quality enables us to correctly foresee that he is heading for the total restoration of the state.