Officials of the BPE visited the Nigerian aluminum company on April 18 and 19.
The visit by officials of Nigeria’s privatisation agency to the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, has generated controversy as the officials have been accused of violating a Supreme Court ruling by the visit.
Officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, and other federal government agencies had on April 17 and 18 visited the aluminum company to hold discussions with management and protesting workers in order to resolve a dispute.
Earlier, the management of the company, the Russian firm UC RUSAL, sacked about half of the 732-member workforce of the company.
Youths from the ALSCON host communities, affected by the sack, aligned with other workers to demand their reinstatement in line with the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the company and the host communities.
In the wake of the crisis that followed the closure of the plant, UC RUSAL’s Managing Director, Stanislav Kruglyashov, on March 10 wrote to the Minister of Mines and Steel, Mohammed Sada, for his intervention.
Sequel to the letter, a seven-man assessment team was constituted to visit ALSCON on April 17 and 18, 2013 to hold discussions with the management and the workers’ union leaders on the way to stave the crisis and mobilise support for the Russians.
Members of the visitation team included the Director of BPE, Benjamin Dikki; Acting Director (Mines & Steel Dept), BPE, Muhammad Dikko; Acting General Counsel, BPE, Joseph Ujomu; Acting Director, Steel, Ministry of Mines & Steel, Abdullahi; Deputy Director, Steel of the BPE, Yusuf Ahmed; Special Assistant to the Director General of the BPE, Sanusi Abdulfafaha, and Pius Oteh, a Special Adviser to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke.
This visit has now been described as a violation of a Supreme Court Order by a party to the suit.
A Nigeria-American consortium, BFIG, which sued the BPE to court and got a favourable ruling by the Supreme Court said the Bureau by the visit violated a Supreme Court directive.
The court, in its ruling of July 6, 2012, had, aside from declaring the BPE the rightful buyers of the plant, also directed the BPE not hand over the plant to any other party except the BFIG.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court granted an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the Defendant/Respondent, BPE, its servants, agent, privies, management or howsoever called from inviting any further bidding for the sale and acquisition of ALSCON in violation of the contract between the Plaintiff/Appellant (BFIG) and Defendant/Respondent and/or from negotiating to sell, selling, transferring or otherwise handing over the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) to any person or persons in violation of the contract between the Plaintiff/Appellant and Defendant/Respondent.”