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New Owners Of Delta Steel Company (DSC) Are "Criminals", "Thieves", Says Youth President, Activist 

... Calls On Anti-graft Agencies To Urgently Investigate Premium Steel and Mines Limited
By Kenneth Orusi, The Nigerian Voice, Asaba

As the alleged assets stripping of Delta Steel Company (DSC) by the new owners, Premium Steel and Mines Limited (PSML) continues to generate ill- feelings among stakeholders and the host communities of Delta State, Premium Steel and Mines Limited, has been branded as "criminals", "Fraudsters" and "thieves" who came as wolves in sheep clothing.

Investigations revealed that PSML, was merely registered a month to the sale of DSC and was not among bidders when the Federal Government threw up the bidding for interested investors.

Speaking with our correspodent, President-General (PG), Udu Youth Progressive Union, at home and in Diaspora, Comrade Freedom Ovwemejephan, who corroborated our investigation said: "Premium Steel and Mines Limited was registered a month interval before the company was sold to them. We want to believe that the company was sold purportedly to Premium Steel with a view to revamping it and making it work for steel production in Nigeria.

"But four years down the line, the company still remains where it was before it was sold. What the Indians there are doing in DSC is what we call asset stripping. They are not doing anything with a view to revitalize the steel plant. Rather, they are vandalising and selling the equipment of DSC, heavy duties like the Mercedes benz, excavators, generators and even the waterboard.

"As I speak to you, all DSC equipment have been sold by this Premium Steel and Mines. It is worrisome and mind boggling, it is expected that if Premium Steel should find any of their equipment obsolete, it is expected that these equipment are repaired and put to use. But now, they are not repairing, they are selling. The ones they don’t sell, they package them and take them back to Indian to the disadvantage of Udu people, Delta state and Nigeria", he alleged.

Comrade Ovwemejephan, revealed that the youth group have written several correspondents to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the FG agency established in 2010 to buy over all the debts of the previous operator, Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited and Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) with the aim of ending the aallege assets sales of DSC but to no avail.

Hear him: "At our level of Udu Youth Progressive union, we have written several letters to AMCON and to the Bureau of Public Enterprises with a view to calling these “criminals” to order. They have as well reacted by writing to Premium Steel asking them to tread with caution. Rather, they should put efforts to making the steel plant work. But these Indians are so adamant, that they don’t want to yield to any positive advice.

"Last two weeks, they went to the generator warehouse, vandalized and removed all the heavy duty generators that were supposed to be refurbished if at all they were not working. But I’m sure those generators are very okay, they are not obsolete".

According to him the suspects were apprehended by the youths and taken to the police station but waters went under the sand and they were let out of the police dragnet.

"As I speak to you, we arrested the trailers, fully loaded with the generators to the Owvian Aladja police headquarters, two days later, they manipulated themselves and released these trucks. As I speak to you, if you go to the camp site now, those generators are not there.

"There are other evidences of assets stripping by Premium Steel and Mines Ltd. There is no gainsaying the fact that Premium Steel does not mean well for Nigeria. It is not interested in revamping the DSC. Come to think of it, what is steel production, the SMS which is the largest plant as far as DSC is concerned, remains unattended to by Premium Steel.

"Now, they have purportedly started working on the rolling mills and producing some rods. But the major aspect of the steel plant that affects the Udu and Nigeria is the SMS. That SMS alone as a plant is capable of engaging 5000 Nigerians in terms of employment. And that is the basis for steel production. So, what are they doing now, they import billets to the steel plant here to power their rolling mill for rods production. That is not the point.

"The point is that Premium Steel has deviated from the privatization agreement. The mandate they were given by government was to come and make the steel plant to work and not to come and steal the assets. As I speak to you, the entire DSC school 1 technical school has been taken over by this Premium Steel, they have taken over the DSC clinic, they have taken over school 1, and 2, the school that was remaining as I speak to you they have also put their mechanism in motion with a view of selling the school 4 to the disadvantage of Udu people.

"There is another generator which they attempted to remove recently but I got wind of the information, we mobilized to where the generator is, when we got there we discovered that there is this contractor who wanted to buy the generator, he came with one mopol, we chased them away to prevent the removal of that generator.

"Now, Premium Steel and Mines Ltd, the MD of the company is a fraudster, first he has so many accounts which he pays these monies that he generates from the illegal sale of the equipment into, instead of paying the money to the company’s account. He diverts this money to his private account. In the time past, we had called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to wade into the activities of this Premium Steel with a view to investigating and if found wanting should be prosecuted.

"It is a typical case of misplaced priority. First, we are asking that they provide the document with which the privatization was done. The Germans of Chinese who had the financial muscle to make the system work were systematically pushed out during the bidding process. That alone is an error on the part of government. The company would have been privatized to a competent and more financially viable company that would take DSC to the next level of steel production.

"It was not sold to them to take as their own property. The Bureau of Public Enterprise as well as Asset Management Company of Nigeria are in a better position as to the details of the transaction. But when you approach me with a view to buying my property, it is expected that you are buying this property not to destroy it. That is the scenario", he alleged.

He hinted that the percentage that ought to go to the host communities is also allegedly hoarded by PSML, "Funny enough, the 10 percent that is accruable to the host communities as contained in the privatization arrangement is not being given to the communities. In the course of the privatization, there is a clause in the agreement that 10 percent of the dividends that is accruable from the exercise should be given to the communities on annual basis. But since privatization till now, the Udu people have not gotten anything.

"These Indians came in virtually three years ago. From then till date the company still remains where it was. For DSC to survive, we are praying government to terminate the contract of Premium Steel and Mines Ltd by way of revoking it and award it to a more competent and financially viable firm with technical know-how and ready to take the Nigeria steel industry to the next level. Steel is a very key component to the development of any nation.

"I want to use this opportunity to alert the federal government of Nigeria, the Bureau for Public Enterprise and AMCON that recent information at our disposal reveals that Premium Steel and Mines Ltd are going to run away having successfully vandalized the steel company. I’m calling on the EFCC to and all relevant anti-corruption agencies to properly look into the activities of Premium Steel and mines because we suspect that these people have successfully stripped the entire assets of the company to the disadvantage of our people", he appealed.

Another respondent, the state chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Prince Kehinde Taiga, who also opened the cane of worms accused Premium Steel and Mines Limited of criminal tendencies.

"I will tell you that Premium Steel company that took over the DSC are criminals. Not quite long, some months ago, two trailers were arrested and were taken to Ovwian division with some equipment of DSC to be sold out. They came to DSC to operate, they never bargained for the assets of DSC. They were brought in to revive DSC and start operation, not to sell the properties of DSC. What they are doing is against the agreement they signed between with the federal government.

"There was no agreement for them to sell out the properties. But as I’m talking to you now, we don’t know how far they have gone in selling all the properties of DSC. I believe they have sold almost all the properties of DSC. Now that they have sold out all the properties of DSC, the tractors, operating machines, generators. I was once a DSC trainee worker. They have vandalized the company. We don’t know where we are going to start from.

"They took DSC on lease. There was a time they were owing workers, we led protest to DSC that Premium Steel must pay up all the workers. We held a meeting with the management of Premium Steel. They said they took over DSC to operate not that they bought all the equipment in DSC. They have not even paid up what they actually bargained. They paid and were allowed to operate. That was what they AMCON told us when we held a meeting with them. I was the one who led the protest to DSC, stressing that the new owners lied over the 100 percent acquisition claim, "If they are saying that, they are liars".

Asked on the performance of Premium Steel and Mines Limited, he said "they are armed robbers. They are not here to produce but to sell all the properties of DSC. DSC is a federal government company. It was established in Delta state to give employment to the youths. We were hoping they are going to employ people when they came but they have never done any massive employment in that place, rather they are selling off all the properties of DSC. They are criminals", he alleged.

The Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs to Premium Steel and Mines Limited, Mr. Emmanuel Etaoghene, while responding to the various allegations levelled against the company said: "What you are saying is a figment of the imagination of the writer as published in your organization. We are not involved in any asset stripping. DSC, before Premium Steel came, was in a very terrible state. And it was abandoned for years. Premium Steel came and tried to bring the company back to this production status we are today.

"Revamping an industry is not a simple thing. Machines, equipment that have been left for years is not something you just wake up one morning and say you want to revamp. Premium Steel, since they came they have invested much to ensure that the company starts production. If you go to the plant now, you will see that rolling mill is working 100 percent. And in fact this should be the third shipment of billets that we have brought".

On the alleged importation of billets instead of producing, he said: "Yes, somebody will say why is it that you are importing billets when you can produce billets? When the former company Global Infrastructure was here, the steel melting shop was bad. Now if you have to rehabilitate a firm, you start gradually from one unit to the other. As we speak, we are expecting a technical firm from Italy to come and start repairs on the steel melting shop. But before it comes up, we can easily bring in new equipment, change the production pattern of the rolling mill, install edge equipment to ensure that we start production and let the impact of Premium Steel be felt in the environment.

"As we are producing, we are selling, we are importing. Infact, when we started, we are less than five but now we have over five hundred staff that have been employed in Premium Steel. You must have seen the truckload of our products that are coming out. This issue of assets stripping, there is nothing like that. The generators they are saying we sold, it would have been better to ask them, how many years those generators have been here?

"Those generators have here for up to 37 years. And most of them, we don’t have need of them, we need to replace them and bring in new equipment. So, when they now say we are selling, if we are selling assets or stripping assets of the company, we engage trailers to help us evacuate our products. So, the plant is being resuscitated according to plan, phase by phase. As we speak, central mechanical maintenance, central electrical maintenance, the water plant, energy services are all ancillary plants that are supposed to be servicing the pellet plant, the SMS and the DR plant.

"So, if the SMS is not working now, or the DR plant or pellet plant is not working now, it does not mean those plants will not work. But we have to take the rehabilitation process step by step.

"That is what I have told you now. Those generators were they functioning? Whoever is giving the impression that we are selling generators. These are old generators that have been here for years, they are no longer useful. During Global period they were not useful. So, they are not functioning. It will be assets stripping if this one is working and we are selling them.

"If I don’t have need for an equipment and its obsolete and I intend to bring in new one, what do you want me to do, should I still keep them?

On the telecom house which was also purportedly looted, Etaoghene said: "The telecom exchange is an old equipment. It’s not required any longer. So, whatever is not required, we try to dispose and replace with modern equipment. That is the position.

"To the best of my knowledge, the letter that I saw as giving this former DSC to Premium Steel that they have paid and they are the new owners of former DSC. Premium Steel has paid and they are the new owners of DSC. That is 100 percent. There is nothing like 80 percent is for the company, then 20 percent is for so so community, nothing like that.

"When DSC was privatized by Bureau of Public Enterprises, it sold 80 percent to Global. And 20 percent was left for the staff and the community. Now, BPE sold to Global, even when Global came it made it known to the community that we bought 80percent and 20 percent reserved for the community and staff. I have been very old in this company. At a time, I was aware that BPE wrote to the community to come and pay for the 20percent, they never paid.

"BPE wrote a letter to National Council of Privatisation (NCP) asking NCP that since these people have not paid for the 20 percent, give us approval to dispose it off. There are letters to that effect. Now, BPE said we sold 80 percent to Global Infrastructure, Global Infrastructure now used the entire assets as collateral for the funds that they got from the banks. Now, BPE is saying that all the assets that Global Infrastructure used as collateral to secure money from the banks were not what we sold to them", the Corporate Affairs Deputy General Manager said.

Meanwhile, Sunil Vaswani, born on 11 July 1963, is one of the Vaswani brothers, an Indian billionaire businessman, and the chairman of the Stallion Group; a Dubai-headquartered company with diversified interests in cars, commodities, food, steel manufacturing, plastics, packaging, petrochemicals, port operations and technology.

His net worth is valued at US$2.5 billion as at May 2019, married to Rita Vaswani, blessed with three children.