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Senate probes Ajaokuta Steel company over $496m settlement

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The Senate on Tuesday resolved to carry out a thorough investigation on the affairs of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Ore Mining Company in Kogi State from 2008 to date.

It planned to unravel the mystery behind the payment of $496m allegedly made to Pramod Mittal, Chairman, Global Infrastructure Holdings Ltd by the Federal Government in September 2022 as a settlement over said contractual disputes.

It also resolved to investigate the circumstances that led to the re-concession of NIOMCO even when the initial Concession Agreement was validly terminated by the Yar’adua Administration with a positive review by the International Chamber of Commerce, London.

Senate’s resolutions to this effect were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan ( PDP Kogi Central) and exhaustively debated by many of the Senators.

Akpoti-Uduaghan said the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Iron Ore Mining Company located in Kogi State were established sometime in the late 70s by the Federal Government with the potential to put Nigeria on the path of technological and industrial advancement and establish the country as one of the leading exporters of steel products in the world.

She lamented that decades after their establishment, the Ajaokuta steel mill and NIOMCO have remained inoperative and unable to produce steel despite seeming efforts by several administrations due to a lack of earnest political will and bureaucratic corruption.

According to her, Nigeria currently expends about $3.3bn annually on steel imports and is quite saddened that a nation blessed with abundant natural ore resources yet plagued by moribund Ajaokuta and Delta steel that have become conduits pipes for diversion of public funds at the expense of Nigerian tax payers.

She added that there exists an abnormal management structure at the Ajaokuta Steel Complex whereby a Sole Administrator has unilaterally decided upon the steel mill’s corporate affairs for the past 12 years.

She said, “This has further worsened the inefficiency of the moribund company with the recently queried 33bn naira electricity debt incurred by Presidential villa.”

The Senate after debate on the motion, consequently set up a committee to be chaired by Senator Adeniyi Ayodele Adegbonmire ( SAN) with senators Natasha Akpoti (Kogi Central), Onawo Mohamed (Nasarawa South) Joel Onowakpa (Delta), Onyesoh Allwell Heacho (Rivers East) Abdullahi Yahaya (Kebbi North), Sen Patrick Chukwuba Ndubueze (Imo North), Tokunbo Abiru (Lagos East) and Osita Ngwu (Enugu West) as members.

While the committee is to report back to the Senate in two weeks, they are also to interface with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies and other critical stakeholders in the steel sector especially those with interest in Ajaokuta Steel Manufacturing Plant and (all mining company NIOMCO to obtain relevant information and submit a comprehensive report to the Senate regarding the affairs of the two plants between 2018 to date.

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Damagum returns as National Chairman, urges members to work for party’s success

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Ambassador Umar Damagum has retained his position as the acting National Charman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

On Thursday, the PDP conducted its 98th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the party’s secretariat in Abuja.

In a communique after the meeting, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Barrister Debo Ologunagba said the NEC urged all members to continue to work together for the success of the party for the benefit of Nigerians.

A day earlier, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party passed a vote of confidence on Damagum.

Ologunagba said: “NEC charges all organs, leaders, critical stakeholders and indeed all members of the PDP to close ranks, put aside every personal or group interests and work together in the overall effort to reposition and return the PDP to power at the center in the interest of the Nigerian people.

“Consequently, NEC received and approved the Timetable for Party Congresses across the country.

“NEC also approved the Reconstitution of the Party Disciplinary and Reconciliation Committees to further ensure the stability of the party.

“Similarly, NEC approved the extension of the life of the Party Constitution Amendment Committee to allow it to receive new amendment proposals for inclusion in its deliberation and final report for consideration by NEC.

“NEC commended the efforts of the National Working Committee in its effort towards rebranding the Party including the new look PDP Logo which is widely accepted by Party members and Nigerians in general.

“NEC charges all Party members to continue to work together for the success of the PDP for the benefit of Nigerians and sustenance of Democracy in our country.”

Before the NEC meeting, PDP members loyal to the party’s presidential candidate in the last election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had moved against Damagum, over allegations that he was working for former governor of Rivers State, Barrister Nyesom Wike.

Wike led a group of five PDP governors that rebelled against Atiku while contesting the presidential election last year.

Atiku lost the election to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who appointed Wike as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

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Reps Urge Ports Operators To Cooperate For Economic Diversification

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By Gloria Ikibah

The House of Representatives has appealed to ports operators in Nigeria to cooperate and align with Nigeria’s economic diversification move.

The Chairman House Committee on Ports And Harbours, Rep. Nnolim Nnaji, made the call at an interactive Session of the Committee with all Terminal Operators and Nigeria Ports Authority Licensed Agents, on Thursday in Abuja.

He explained that the Committee’s interactive session was very crucial because of the invaluable roles the sector plays in the nation’s economy and national life.

He saud: “It therefore presents us with urgent need to effect changes that will restructure this unique and high-tech sector and position it to strategically compete in the global space.

“This sector is very dynamic and we must constantly review the standards, facilities and operational guidelines to keep pace with its obtainable global best practices.

“I wish to reiterate the Committee’s commitment to ensure that the sector remains one of the best through appropriate legislation and oversight in order to bequeath to Nigerians, a Ports and Harbours that is properly regulated and better managed for greater efficiency”.

The Committee Chairman also said that it was important to harmoniously promote the objective of professionalizing the modus operandi of the sector to improve Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and revenue generation.

“We intend to collaborate with relevant Stakeholders in the industry to ensure that appropriate avenues are created for its economic development and then make it a hub for better non-oil revenue generation. It is imperative to note that the House of Representatives will continue to support total rehabilitation and upgrading of our Ports and Harbours and allied services. We shall ever be ready to provide the necessary legislation and needed oversight to achieve this purpose”, he added.

Rep. Nnaji disclosed that the purpose of the meeting was to provide the interface for members of the Committee to interact with Stakeholders in the industry, most especially Terminal Operators and NPA Licensed Agents regarding their operations and various activities in the Ports and also create the enabling environment and synergy towards achieving the goals of the Federal Government in the Maritime sector, as well as aligning the sector with its contemporary demands, developmental goals, international standards and best practices.

“It is pertinent to note that the Committee’s role is not only to oversight the NPA, but also to partner with stakeholders in the sector to achieve maximum success taking cognizance of government’s quest on increasing revenue generation, port decongestion and boosting infrastructural development for effective service delivery. Thus, we must be committed to transparency, collaboration and open dialogue with all stakeholders to enhance ease of doing business”, the chairman said.

The lawmaker enjoined the stakeholders to bring their exclusive viewpoints and experiences on board as they will be invaluable in shaping policies and recommendations of the committee.

While briefing the committee, the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, Mrs Urunta Chinyere, told the committee that there was the news for the digitization of the operations of the agents.

According to her, if operators can adopt the model, it would enhance revenue generation.

“We observed that most of the terminal operators are doing partial implementation of what we ask for. They are not fully complying to what they are supposed to do”, Chinyere said.

In his response, the Managing Director of Five Star Logistics, Mr. Rigor Nazzari, said that his agency has fully complied with all the models.

According to him, there are operators specific issues at the terminals that need to be addressed by the council.

The committee chairman thereforw called on the terminal operators to comply with the council and upgrade their systems.

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Aisha Yesufu queries Gov. Ododo for trying to prevent EFCC from arresting Yahaya Bello

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By Kayode Sanni-Arewa

Nigerian female social activist, Aisha Yesufu,  has expressed displeasure with the role played by Kogi Stars Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo in stopping the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from arresting his predecessor, Yahaya Bello.

It was gathered that the Kogi Governor on Wednesday, obstructed the arrest of Bello by operatives of the EFCC.

Recall that the EFCC operatives had stormed Bello’s residence in Abuja in an attempt to arrest him over an ongoing fraud investigation.

But Bello was reportedly smuggled out of his residence by Ododo to evade arrest by the anti-graft agency.

“I cannot imagine I, Aisha Yesufu as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Governor will come to Abuja where I am, to prevent @officialEFCC from arresting someone.

“As in, prevent it from carrying out its constitutional sanctioned duty. Nahhhhh!
Kai! Poor Nigeria!”

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