The House of Representatives stepped up its opposition against the proposed concessioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Company by the federal government, which is being spearheaded by the Honourable Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
At the House plenary on Thursday, lawmakers resolved to no longer recognise Fayemi as “honourable minister” following a vote of confidence which was recently passed on him. They said that in order climes, the fact that a vote of no confidence has been passed on a cabinet minister by parliament was enough grounds for such a minister to be dismissed by the president.
Here are a few takeaways from the latest chapter in the standoff between Fayemi and the lawmakers:
1. The opposition to Fayemi is being led by APC lawmakers:
In fact, the chief antagonist of the minister is the House majority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, a Lagos lawmaker and ally of APC national leader, Bola Tinubu.
Gbajabiamila proposed an amendment to the Privatisation Act that would expunge the Ajaokuta Steel Company (ASC) from the list of public assets in the schedule that can be privatised or concessioned by the Federal Government. The Act would also be amended to remove the powers of the National Council on Privatisation as the authority to decide on which firms should be on the schedule.
2. The PricewaterhouseCoopers angle:
Gbajabiamila’s proposed amendment was sequel to a motion moved by another APC lawmaker from Bauchi state, Ahmed Yerima and 24 others.
The motion opposed an audit of the steel company allegedly being undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which the House described as “a globally discredited firm.”
The motion stated that PwC was sanctioned in India, with a two-year audit ban for infractions of over $1bn; 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 U.S. 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 their operations, which have left its reputation in tatters.
“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,” the motion said.
3. The bottom line:
Members of the House of Representative do not want the ASC to be concessioned; rather they want the government completing the project as a public property.
4. Fayemi responds – No transactional adviser appointed:
In response to the the resolution of the House, the minister, Kayode Fayemi, said in a statement that “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).”
5. Fayemi responds – No dime has been spent:
“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 minister said.
This raises the question: If the lawmakers approved funding for the concessioning of the ASC, why then are they now suddenly opposed to the privatisation process?
6. Fayemi responds – House is putting cart before horse:
According to the minister, it is “worrisome that the House of Representatives could devote an entire day to an issue that has not even arisen.”