The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) has cleared UC Rusal – current owners of the Aluminium Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), of allegations of asset stripping. Chairman, Fact-Finding Committee on ALSCON, Mr. Emmanuel Amadi, said after an assessment of the plant that its machines and structures were intact, adding that what was mistaken for asset stripping was the disposal of scraps, non-liquid assets, faulty and inactive equipment and their parts by Rusal.
But the BFI Group Corporation which won a Supreme Court judgement that nullified Rusal’s ownership of the plant has criticised the NCP report on the aluminium company as lacking “technical knowledge”.
The NCP’s clean bill of health to Rusal came amid several protests by labour unions and youths in the host community over an alleged deliberate destruction of key machinery in the plant, operational inefficiency, lying down of staff among other allegations.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY on the NCP statement which was issued through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Executive Vice-President, Public Relations, BFIGroup Corporation, Mr. Frank Scherer, said the NCP assessment committee lacked the competence to conduct such a technical verification of the rot in ALSCON.
He said:”NCP is not an engineering company and therefore lacked the technical knowledge of aluminium smelter technology and the complex engineering proficiency required to conduct a comprehensive review of Alscon for the purpose of issuing a clearance report on UC Rusal asset stripping allegation. The entire team did not have one single engineer with proficiency in aluminium smelter technology. It is indeed sad for the nation.”
It came as it was also gathered that total sales of stripped assets, which the NCP committee described as obsolete equipment, to several companies by Rusal was valued at about N146 million in August 2013, according to transaction receipts obtained by THISDAY. [eap_ad_2] However, there had been conflicting accounts over the real motive behind Rusal’s dismantling of equipment at the plant-initially, the management said it intended to upgrade the facility to modern standards, a claim analysts had doubted given the difficult financial situation the company finds itself-and even operating far below its installed capacity. Managing Director, UC Rusal, Mr. Dmitriy Zaviyalov, had however told the committee that it decided to sell the plant’s “scraps and non-liquid assets to get additional income for survival, especially payment of staff salaries.”
He further told the committee that though it had invested about N24.54 billion into the plant between 2007 and 2012, it has had to suspend production in March 2013 as a result of “teething problems”.
He added that since it took over the company, only 11 per cent of its production capacity had been utilised while it also experienced six disruptions of gas supply during the period. However, THISDAY gathered from sources within the BPE that the inspection team was divided as the Director of Steel at the BPE had a different view of the assessment of the plant.
Scherer also expressed regrets that “Despite the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruling stripping UC Rusal of Alscon ownership, the management of the company have on record and video admitted to continuous dismantling of smelter technology components of ALSCON for sales to sustain their operations.”
Noting that it was disheartening to learn that the fact- finding committee used less than three hours to conduct a guided tour of the plant, he urged the Federal Government to “reject their report because UC Rusal shall use that same report against the nation at the appropriate time.” [This Day][eap_ad_3]