In recent times, the gale of investigations by the Legislature have exposed previously hidden malfeasance in the much celebrated Ajaokuta Steel Company deal, one of the transactions supervised by the late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and now attracting whiff of investigation by the anti-corruption agencies in the Country.
The story began in 2016 when the House of Representatives, through a request made by the Ministry of Solid Minerals, then headed by the current Governor of Ekiti state, Gov. Kayode Fayemi duly appropriated N2,096,500,000 (Two billion, ninety-six million, five hundred thousand Naira) for the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex in the 2017 Budget.
The Ministry engaged the services of some Ukrainian Engineers who came down to Nigeria to conduct the Technical Auditing. Price Waterhouse Coopers were also contracted to collaboratively review the Company’s indebtedness and statutory liabilities.
The then Minister, Gov Kayode Fayemi, made it known that the technical audit, which would determine the actual cost of fixing Ajaokuta Steel Complex, was still ongoing, and would be ready in six weeks. Despite this claim, up until today and despite the enormous amount spent, the result of that audit has not been published or made known to members of the public or the Legislature.
The current Solid mineral Minister -Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite revealed in a Press Conference in Abuja on Monday, that the Russian Government is about to carry out another technical audit on Ajaokuta Steel Company. This clearly points out to the sham that was the initial contract, which was said to have been misappropriated by the Governor.
Further investigation by MSJ revealed that despite the ludicrous amount appropriated and received by the Ministry of Solid Mineral under Governor Fayemi, for over 2 billion naira study which translated to about $6.55 million in 2017, there was indeed an offer by a technically capable company to carry out the same study for a thirteenth of this sum, or $500,000 (Five Hundred thousand US dollars) which was rejected by the Minister in favour of his cronies at PWC and sham Ukrainian engineers – despite the plant being Russian built.
A source in the ministry said Fayemi and Engr Ataba, now sole administrator of Ajaokuta Steel alongside others cooked up the need for a technical audit, got money for it; and with the help of a few staff of Ajaokuta steel, put up a shabby document which has since been rejected. He also hired his friend’s company- Greenwich, current Minister of Trade from Ekiti, Otunba Niyi Adebayo’s company to consult for the National Ore Company at Itakpe, sources at the ministry indicated. The former Minister and current one were also said to have siphoned billions of naira from that.
All of this is contained in a petition that has since been submitted to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) calling for the probe of FAYEMI’s tenure as Minister. Despite his immunity, the investigation to this scam is said to be about to be initiated but may now be on hold until current issues surrounding EFCC leadership is resolved.
It was said that PwC involvement in Ajaokuta, as fronts from the previous Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, was part of the entire scheme of the then shadowy group led by the CoS to milk various federal government projects using the consulting company to give a semblance of legitimacy while leveraging compromised Ministers like Governor Fayemi.
The closest associate of the then CoS was Farouk Gumel, who was the former Partner, West Africa Executive Management Team according to his LinkedIn Page and was later announced as Senior Special Assistant to the President (Special Duties) working for then Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari from 2015 until his death.
Farouk Gumel not only held the role at PwC but also in the Villa and was also leading an Agro-Commodity group- TGI, which benefited from the enormous fertilizer program run out of Abba Kyari’s office in 2015-2019. The web of nepotism from Abba Kyari to Farouk Gumel’s PwC involved in the Ajaokuta scam definitely extended to Governor Fayemi who enjoyed close patronage with the late Chief of Staff.
Furthermore, It was said that The Society of Engineers were involved in the audits. But in an appearance by the society before the House of Representatives, they went on record to say that that never happened. Up till now, there is no proof that the society of Engineers participated in the audit
Now the Ministry is about to embark on another round of audit to take money from the system for the same thing that Fayemi claimed to have. Again, Otunba Niyi Adebayo as Minister of Trade & Industry, working with the present Minister we learnt, has appointed a non-reputable company known as Metprom to do another audit for N5b.
Will the Ajaokuta scam ever end? Will the President demand probity of Fayemi and the remnant of the Kyari cronies in the system.