*As lawmakers urge FG to make ALSCON functional
Port Harcourt — The House of Representatives has resolved to invite the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, to brief its Committee on Steel Development on the current state of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON.
This follows a motion moved by the member representing Etinan/Nsit-Ibom/Nsit-Ubium Federal Constituency, Onofiok Luke, on Wednesday calling on the Federal Government to make ALSCON functional.
ALSCON, before its privatisation, had the Federal Government, Forrestal of Germany and Reynolds Incorporated of America as shareholders on an equity holding of 70 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent respectively.
In the motion titled; Call On The Federal Government To Make ALSCON Functional, which was seconded by another House of Reps member, Jafar Mohammed, Mr Luke gave a timeline of ALSCON.
Luke noted that ALSCON, located in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, was an aluminium-producing plant that serviced Nigerian markets with aluminium products and provided jobs for thousands of Nigerians.
He expressed worries that since the privatization of ALSCON, there has not been any significant improvement in the operations of the company which is not producing any aluminium at the moment.
The former Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, also worried that former staff of ALSCON and their families are facing hardship due to Federal Government’s failure to pay the retrenched staff their terminal benefits of N2.3billion, having only paid N4million to them.
“Further note that the objectives of establishing the company were to utilize and enhance the country’s gas reserve and to discourage gas flaring in the Niger Delta, to establish a self-reliant aluminium factory, provide employment for Nigerians, impact technical/develop trained technical manpower, conserve and earn foreign exchange by meeting local aluminium demands and to aid the development of aluminium downstream industries.
“Aware that between 1997 and 1999 when ALSCON was operational, the company provided employment for about 1,820 permanent workers and over 4,000 casual workers, and the number of people employed was expected to increase with the expansion of the production capacity of the company.
“Also aware that the company stopped operation on 6 June 1999 due to irreconcilable differences between some shareholders, coupled with other associated problems of lack of working capital, insufficient gas supply and non-dredging of Imo River, among others.”
Onofiok Luke said these problems necessitated the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, to privatise the company in 2004 for smooth operation and efficient service delivery.
“Cognizant that by privatising ALSCON, it was expected that there would be improved management of the company’s assets, job retention, job creation, technological advancement, empowerment of local communities, improved tax revenues and execution of corporate social responsibility projects for the communities.
“We should be concerned that the assets of the company are deteriorating as they are not being put into use, serviced or maintained and with the level of unemployment in the country, ALSCON would have provided thousands of job opportunities for the teeming population.”
The House, therefore resolved to, “Urge the Federal Government to ensure the resumption of operations in ALSCON and, to pay all the former staff of the company the remaining terminal benefits of N2.3 billion; and
“Invite the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE to brief the Committee on Steel Development on the current state of ALSCON.”
Meanwhile, House of Reps member, Nkem Abonta, from Abia State, proposed an amendment to ensure the Supreme Court’s judgement on ALSCON should be adhered, which would make the company functional again and it was seconded by Rep. Dagomie Abiante, from Rivers State.
The motion was voted on and adopted as amended.