*We loaned it to them—RUSAL
By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA—Accusations of asset stripping at the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria re-echoed, yesterday, following the discovery of a 50,000-litre oil tank belonging to the company in nearby Ibom Power Company, which is owned by Akwa Ibom State Government.
The report is coming barely a month after BFIG, the American firm that the court vested the ownership of the company with, cried out that the Russian firm, RUSAL, that was still laying claims to ownership after being sacked by the Supreme Court, was actively looting the assets of the firm, with a view to stifling the reopening of the plant by the real owners.
Although RUSAL laid off many of its workers and shut the plants early this year, on the grounds that it did not have steady gas supply, coupled with the uncertainty over the ownership, it had, nonetheless, continued to play with the assets of the firm.
BFIG returns to Supreme Court
BFIG has already returned to the Supreme Court pleading the apex court to compel the Bureau for Public Enterprise, BPE, on whose back RUSAL rode to the occupation of te premises of the firm, to comply with the order dismissing it from the plant.
The missing tank is said to have been traced to Ibom Power Plant through some eagled-eyed community leaders and staff of ALSCON who raised the alarm that it was wrong to illegally transfer the asset of the company to another at a time the Russian company claimed it had ceased production and waiting for the court to determine who owned the firm.
Executive Vice President (Media Relations) of BFIG, Frank Scherer, described the continued looting of the company assets as criminal and unbecoming of a company.
Scherer expressed concern that it was still unclear under what condition RUSAL transferred the oil tank to Ibom Power and asked the Federal Government to take action against such atrocity to stem the tide of looting at the premises of the aluminium firm.
Tank transferred by RUSAL
He revealed also that that a top official of Ibom Power had admitted on enquiry that the facility was transferred to them by RUSAL last week but did not say why the action was taken.
Scherer noted: “Even after the Supreme Court, the highest court in Nigeria, in its ruling of July 6, 2012 ordered the BPE to take over the plant and prepare to hand over to the preferred bidder that emerged at the end of the bid exercise in 2004,the privatization agency has always neglected to do its job.
“Reports of massive asset striping and illegal removal of critical assets of ALSCON have always been reported to BPE against UC RUSAL. But, it is a shame that BPE has always shown that it has other selfish interests to protect over this national asset.
“This is a disturbing development when BPE keeps denying and deceiving Nigerians and the Presidency about the serial pillage at the company.”
BFIG boss writes Ibom Power
Angered by the development, the Chief Executive Officer of BFIGroup, Dr.Reuben Jaja, wrote to the Managing Director of Ibom Power, Gareth Wilcox, to demand some explanations over the transaction.
Jaja said: “On Wednesday, September 18, 2013, or thereabouts, a 50,000 Transformer Oil Tank and other equipment were illegally stripped and removed from the ALSCON’s premises and discreetly transferred to Ibom Power,
“As you may be aware, the legal proceedings, with regard to the transfer of ALSCON ownership to BFIGroup Corporation USA, are now before the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Despite the order of injunction placed by the apex court, we have received information from the public and media with regards to the widespread asset striping, criminal vandalization and outright sale of ALSCON property.”
“Consequently, I urge you to secure the property as our legal counsel will be contacting you shortly.”
Missing tank not illegally transferred—RUSAL
But, spokesman for UC RUSAL, Tatiyana Smirnova, told Vanguard on Wednesdays that it was not true that the missing oil tank was illegally transferred to Ibom Power, adding that it was given to the company on loan as a form of assistance.
Smirnova said: “No illegal stripping or removal of 50,000 litres transformer oil drain tank from the ALSCON’s premise has occurred. ALSCON is the owner of the 50,000-litres cylinder steel tank (Transformer oil Drain Tank).
“In compliance with the request for assistance from Ibom Power Company, ALSCON has allowed Ibom Power Company to temporarily borrow the Steel Tank in accordance with the terms and conditions of Guarantee Letter signed by both parties.
“Additionally, Ibom Power Company is responsible for the loading and transportation of the Steel Tank to and from Ibom Power site at Ikot Abasi under the strict supervision of ALSCON personnel.”