The House of Representatives has gone a step further in its opposition to the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company by proposing to amend the Privatisation Act.
It also resolved on Thursday that having passed a vote of no confidence in the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the House would no longer accord him the recognition of addressing him as “honourable minister.”
The lawmakers also noted that in other climes, passing a vote of no confidence in a minister was enough grounds for the President to sack him, adding that the House did not need to stress it.
In a resolution in Abuja, the House observed that Fayemi’s decision to engage PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a technical audit on the ASC meant that he was bent on the firm’s concession.
To stop Fayemi, the House proposed to amend the Privatisation Act immediately by expunging the ASC from the list of public assets in the schedule that could be privatised or given to private investors as concession by the Federal Government.
It also sought to further amend the Act by removing the powers of the National Council on Privatisation as the authority to decide on which firms should be on the schedule.
The proposal to amend the Act was moved by the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila. It was endorsed by members.
Gbajabiamila’s proposal was an amendment to an initial motion moved by Mr. Ahmed Yerima and 24 other lawmakers.
The motion stated that PwC played a role in one of the past failed attempts to give out Ajaokuta on concession.
The motion read in part, “The House is further aware that the audit of the Ajaokuta Steel Company is being undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a globally discredited firm, having been sanctioned in India, with a two-year audit ban for infractions of over $1bn.
“It was sanctioned in Brazil for which it paid $50m as fine; fined in the United Kingdom for £5.1m, the largest-ever sanction imposed by the UK regulator; paid $225m and $25m respectively as fines to TYCO shareholders in the US and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, where it was implicated for money laundering for Iran, Sudan and Myanmar.
“It was blacklisted for roles in terrorism and human rights abuses, among other infractions and irregularities in its operations, all of which have left its reputation in tatters.”
It added, “The House is concerned by the allegation that PricewaterhouseCoopers was informally engaged by Global Steel to assist and advise them on how to recover Ajaokuta Steel Company and the National Iron Ore Company, Itakpe from the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2012 at the onset of negotiations.
“Worried by the apparent actions of the Minister of Mines and Steel Development in engaging a company whose antecedents may suggest that they are being engaged to audit and prepare reports, which may skew the outcome thereof in a preconceived manner in favour of parties, which the minister may have lined up or which may represent the interests of their former clients (GINL).”
Many members, who spoke at the session presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, opposed the concession of the ASC, but were disposed to the government completing the project as a public property.
The motion was passed unanimously in a voice vote by members.
Meanwhile, Fayemi and the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Abubakar Bwari, have said that they have yet to hire a transaction adviser for the concession of the ASC.
In a statement signed by Fayemi’s media aide, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, and made available to our correspondents in Abuja on Thursday, the ministers expressed worry that the House of Representatives devoted one day discussing issues that had not arisen.
They also stated that the lawmakers had grossly misunderstood them.
The statement said, “The attention of the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Abubakar Bwari, has been drawn to the debate by members of the House of Representatives on the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, where the House adopted a resolution to stop the planned concession of the steel company.
“While the ministers are convinced that the 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.”