The house of representatives on Thursday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct Kayode Fayemi, minister of mines and steel development, to stop the process of concessioning the Ajaokuta steel plant.
The lower legislative chamber also moved to amend the privatisation act by removing the steel plant from the list of public assets which the federal government has powers to privatise or concession.
The lawmakers also want to strip the National Council on Privatisation of its powers as the only body backed by law to decide on which firms should be on the schedule.
The resolutions were sequel to a motion raised during plenary on Thursday by 25 lawmakers led by Ahmed Yerima, on the urgent need to investigate the company.
Fayemi had said the government would go ahead with plans to concession the company despite opposition from the lawmakers.
Although the minister accused the national assembly of earlier approving the concession in 2017, the lawmakers said they are “disturbed” by Fayemi’s “insistence” to concession the company despite their advice against it.
They berated the minister for saying the government would not spend “another one dollar” on the steel company when “he is already spending N2 billion for the concessioning process” and when Nigeria spends “over $3.5bn USD on importation of steel related products annually”.
The lawmakers also accused the ministry of mines and steel development of employing the services of PricewaterhouseCoopers, “a globally discredited firm” for the audit of the steel plant.
Yerima said PricewaterhouseCoopers have been sanctioned in India, “with a 2-year audit ban for infractions of over $1 billion; sanctioned in Brazil for which it paid $50million as fine; fined in the United Kingdom for £5.1m, the largest ever sanction imposed by the UK regulator”.
He added that the company had been “implicated for money laundering and blacklisted for roles in terrorism and human rights abuses in their operations in countries such as Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar.”
He said the audit and concession process was done illegally as the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission — both mandated by law — were not “involved or engaged.”
None of the lawmakers spoke in favour of the concession, with some of them even advocating that it should be enlisted on the Nigeria Stock Exchange when completed.
Chris Azubogwu from Anambra said “if that company will come on the stock exchange, we are willing to buy its shares, to have a strong steel industry in Nigeria.”
The lawmakers directed ad-hoc committee on the steel company to investigate the audit and concession process as well as determine “whether there is pecuniary interest on the part of the minister (regarding the concession).”
They also asked the committee to urgently consider “the possibility of a bill for an act to provide for the completion of Ajaokuta Steel Company and prohibit the concession thereof prior to its completion.”