The Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Benjamin Diki, disclosed this at the weekend, during a visit to the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State.
“The issue of gas supply is not only restricted to ALSCON. It is a major challenge even for the gas-fired power plants. You know there are 10 IPP (Independent Power Projects) coming on stream and gas has been a major challenge and the federal government is working towards addressing those issues.
“Part of the $1 billion loan the government secured recently, a good portion of it is being reserved for development and expansion of gas infrastructure so that we will get over this issue of gas. It is not only ALSCON that is affected, but our power plants are being affected by the non-availability of gas,” he said.
He, however, did not say from which source the government got the $1 billion facility.
Diki was in ALSCON to ascertain the true position of thing over the accusation that the current operator or manager of the ALSCON, UC RUSAL, had vandalised the plant.
After over three hours of touring the plant, he said he was shocked by what was on the ground as it was contrary to reports sent to his office.
Dikki, who fielded questions from journalists, added that the alarm raised by a cross-section of the community over vandalism of the factory could be political and gave UC RUSAL a clean bill of health.
“We are here because we have heard some information or misinformation that this plant is being vandalised and equipment being removed.
“So it is of concern to us that we should not allow one of our key national assets vandalised,” he said.
He explained to reporters that the trip was “to see with our eyes and to establish the veracity of this claim. You have all gone round and you have seen with your eyes and all the equipment we have seen are actually being operationalize. They are all in functional mood.
“What are being moved out are scraps and waste products that have accumulated in the factory over a long period of time. Those are things that will not be useful for the factory and in fact, they are environmental hazards and should actually be removed from these premises as soon as possible.
“We will find out where these rumours are coming from, whether people are trying to agitate for issues and they are trying to use this as a medium of negotiation.
“We will sit down with the relevant stakeholders and know exactly what is going on and see how we can resolve them amicably. I have talked to the Nigerian directors and they have said that there was no vandalised equipment.
“We are going to meet with the labour unions and communities and find out exactly what are the issues. If it is communication gap, we will bridge the communication gap.
“If there are other more serious issues, we will look at them and find out how to resolve them amicably. We only came as an advance party but we will send the technical team from the Ministry of Mines and Power to come and give us their own assessment of the situation on ground. We are not questioning the credibility of the directors that are here.”
Diki was conducted round major areas of the plant, including the cast house, carbon rodding plant and pot house, by the Managing Director of US RUSAL-ALSCON, Mr. Stanislav Kruglashov.
Sources closed to the plant linked the alleged vandalism of the factory to poor relationship between ALSCON and the community leaders, local and state governments.