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Reps, Fayemi and Vote of No Confidence

By Shola Akingboye

 

House of Representatives has passed a vote of no confidence on the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and the Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Abubakar Bawa-Bwari over their absent at a sectoral debate on the steel sector scheduled by the House last Thursday, primarily to find solutions to the troubled Ajaokuta Steel Plant.

The decisions arose from a motion by Ahmed Yarima (Bauchi-APC) and 24 others. According to the lawmakers, it noted that in other climes, passing a vote of no confidence in a minister was enough grounds for the President to sack him, adding that the House did not need to stress it.

In a resolution in Abuja, the House observed that Fayemi’s decision to engage PricewaterhouseCoopers, a “globally discredited” firm, to conduct a technical audit on Ajaokuta Steel Company, meant that he was bent on concessioning the firm for his personal benefits.

Moving the motion, Mr. Yarima said the firm engaged to audit the steel company, PwC, is globally discredited, having been sanctioned in many countries, including India which banned it for two years for infractions of over $1 billion.

He said the firm was also sanctioned in Brazil and paid $50 million as fine, as well as being fined £5.1 million in the United Kingdom in the largest ever sanction imposed by the UK regulator.

“They paid $225 million and $25 million 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, blacklisted for roles in terrorism and human rights abuses; among other infractions and irregularities in their operations, which has left its reputation in tatters,” he said.

Mr. Yarima said there were allegations that the company was informally engaged by Global Steel to assist and advise it on how to recover Ajaokuta Steel Company and National Iron Ore Company, (NIOMCO) Itakpe from the Nigerian government in 2012 at the onset of negotiations.

He added the company’s antecedents suggest it was engaged to audit and prepare a skewed report in favour of parties the Minister has interest or of its former clients, GINL.

To stop Fayemi, the House proposed to amend the Privatisation Act immediately by expunging ASC from the list of public assets in the schedule that can be privatised or concessioned by the Federal Government.

The House also mandated its ad-hoc committee on Ajaokuta Steel Complex to consider the possibility of a Bill for an Act to provide for the completion of the Ajaokuta Steel Company and prohibit its concessioning before the completion.

The lawmakers took these decisions after resolving to probe the engagement of PriceWater House Coopers (PwC) by the minister to audit the steel complex towards concessioning it.

Having passed a vote of no confidence on the Minister, the House maintained that, it no longer has any business with him and does not regard him as a ‘Honourable Minister’.

Meanwhile, the minister, through his spokesperson said he duly notified the house of his inability to attend prior to the debate, says tolerance and moderation are essential ingredients in public service engagement.

In a statement by Olayinka Oyebode, the ministry condemned the action of the lawmakers as “unwarranted and unfortunate, says there is more to it than make belief.

It, however, explained the rationale behind the failure of both ministers to attend the meeting, saying it had been duly communicated to the leadership of the House in two separate letters.

“It is rather unfair for the House members to categorise the ministers’ absence as ‘boycott’, when they were adequately notified.

“In this particular case, they appear to be in short supply and the ministry believes that there is more than meets the eye on this matter. After all, the Ministers are always willing to engage the Honourable House and its leadership at all times,” the statement read.

The House however revealed that, the minister’s reply to its invitation was written on his behalf by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Abdulkadir Muazu, which the House affirmed was received on February 27, just two days to the debate, to say that he would be unavailable, while Bawa-Bwari too had other official engagements.

Juxtaposing the House argument, the Speaker, Dogara admitted that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was scheduled to appear alongside with Fayemi on Thursday.

Dogara said while Adeosun called to explain that she was in Kaduna and would arrive in Abuja by 4pm to address the House, Fayemi merely said he was unavailable, but wished the House well.

The Speaker said he was amazed by the minister’s conduct, which appeared to give credence to the allegation that “some powerful interests” in the ministry had concluded arrangements to concession the steel complex.

Meanwhile, the House has described the notice as a ‘deliberate boycott’ of the event and passed a vote of no confidence on Mr. Fayemi and the minister of state in the ministry, Bawa Bwari.

The House therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop Mr. Fayemi from proceeding further with concessioning processes of the steel complex, pending a review ordered by the House.

He said even if it means borrowing the money, the House would give its approval.

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