By Gladys Nweke
Details have emerged why the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) I under lock and key and why the $3.2Bn investment in it is stalled. Economists say its because of the refusal of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to obey the Supreme Court judgment awarding the company to BFIG since 2007.
The refusal of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to adhere to the judgment of the Supreme Court on the privatisation of the state owned Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) is behind the closure of the firm since 2013, and not the issue of gas price and gas subsidy programme, an economist has said.
Recall that ALSCON situated in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, which was incorporated in 1989 to utilised Nigeria’s gas resources, began operations of aluminum production with design capacity of 197,000 metric tonnes of aluminum per annum and a 540mw gas fired power plant in 1997.
In 2007, BPE, under the supervision of National Council for Privatization (NCP) privatized the plant in 2007 but one of the bidders (BFIG Group) went to court to challenge the bid process.
The matter was adjudicated at various courts and in July 6, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of BFIG group, but BPE did not comply with the Supreme Court decision but pitched its tent with a Russian firm, UC Rusal.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt, the South-South Coordinator, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, ICEN, Mr. Friday Udoh, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter as the country urgently needs investment to boost its export capacity and drive the needed economic growth.
Udoh explained that it was inimical to the country’s already ailing economy for ALSCON, which is a $3.2billion investment, to remain shut, explaining that the firm has the capacity to employ 1,200 workers directly and 60,000 indirectly if all the raw materials for the plant are sourced locally.
According to him, contrary to the falsehood being peddled, BPE refusal to adhere to the apex court judgment of 2012 and their inability to implement the January 2019 Court of Appeal affirmation of the Supreme Court ruling, is behind the closure of ALSCON and not gas price.
“Mr. President must intervene and uphold the sanctity of the country’s judicial system, that the judgment of the Supreme Court must be implemented to the later, because this issue is beyond Alex Okoh and BPE.
“He (President Muhammadu Buhari) must use his veto power to uphold the court judgments because the closure of ALSCON is inimical to the country’s economy. We should not allow a $3.2 billion investment to die.”
Debunking the insinuations that gas price was behind the closure of ALSCON, the economist explained that even at $0.65 gas price benchmark, the plant will still make good profit.