By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Bancorp Financial Investments Group (BFIG), has accused the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), of deliberately refusing to hand over the Aluminum Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, 18 years after it emerged as the preferred bidder in 2004.
The Chairman/CEO of BFIG, Dr Reuben Jaja who made the allegation while briefing journalists in Abuja, said, “immediately we won ALSCON, there was an effort to take it away from us, right from the closure of the bids”.
“”So from 2004 BPE summoned you the media and what did they tell you? ‘They couldn’t pay. BFIG couldn’t pay. That was why we cancelled and nullified them”, he stated.
Dr Jaja pointed out that the group decided to take the matter to court to compel the BPE to comply culminating in the Supreme Court ruling in its favour in 2012.
According to him, the BPE’s argument was that it would not handle over ALSCON to the group until BFIG signed the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA).
Describing it as a”blatant lie”, the BFIG boss said in the first place the BPE never gave it the SPA to sign until after the Supreme Court ruling in 2012 which he said “we did not waste time to sign it”.
He however alleged that the mutually agreed SPA of 58 pages which it signed which was also given to Rusal of Russia, was later substituted with a 16 page SPA to which it declined.
“Now that 58 pages contains almost all what we agreed to as bidders at a special meeting of BPE and the bidders and it was laid out there that when you win you will come negotiate the SPA. After you have finished that you will have 15 working days to pay and that is when the supreme court said you have not even given them the SPA, why are you saying they are unable to pay?”, he stressed.
According to him, “We signed it and we gave it to them and the transmittal letter said provide us with your account and everything so we can deposit the money. We signed that agreement in October, transmitted to them in that same of October.
“We wrote them a reminder in November 2012, that one month has passed and they still did not write to give us the Account Details into which to pay the deposit.
“From October 2012 to January 2013 they did nothing and then suddenly in January 2013, they abandoned that agreement of 58 pages, and they gave us another one, this time 16 pages.
We looked at these pages and said we signed this thing October we even called you and said how come you are wasting so much time and you wrote us and said we are just organizing so that we can and go and inspect the property with you so that you know what to buy”, Jaja added.
He said BPE action was a contempt of the Apex Court ruling to which it returned to the court to enforce the judgement leading to the court committing the BPE and its DG to one month in prison.
“Now we rushed back to the supreme court, and said this people refused to give us the SPA we signed and all of a sudden they came back and said we should forget about that after four months and gave us a new one and fired the DG that gave us 58 pages.
“It was at that point I asked them, I am a Nigerian from a prominent family in this country, why would you discriminate against me and give a foreigner 58-page SPA that will make him successful and change it in my case?
“At that point they refused and the supreme court said we have finished with this matter, go to the lower court and enforce your judgment. So we went, that is how we went back to the lower court.
“So between the period of 2012 and 2018, the lower court enforced that judgment in our favor and told them the 58 page agreement is what we must sign because that is what others have signed.
BPE said no we are going to appeal and they took it to the Appeal Court and the Appeal Court refused to file their papers”, he further explained.
He said, “BFIG came to this country as part of portfortune. It will shock you to know that we brought in 2.5billion british pound to this country our consertim brought2.5 billion pounds before we started this effort.
“That money was lodged at Union Bank. Union bank took 400million out of the money, returned 2.1billion to the central bank. Aa we speak, the where about of this funds is unknown. And we have initiated law suit.
“That have traveled all the way from lower court, appeal court and to the supreme court. Uphelding that they mist return our money back at once”.
When contacted for his comment, the Director General of BPE, Mr Alex Okoh said the allegation by DFIG Chairman were not true.
“That is totally false. He has already signed the agreement as ordered by the Supreme Court. Why did he sign it if it was the wrong one! He signed in December last year! We have a copy of the agreement and we can show it to the press if he wants.
“The agreement he signed stipulates that he makes payment within 15 days. He has not made any payment. “If he has money to pay in line with the Supreme Court judgement, let him just bring the money. Period!
“To try and use cheap blackmail to acquire such a strategic national asset for free or through the back door is disingenuous to be frank. It’s not going to happen. No amount of cheap blackmail will make that happen”.
Recall that the Federal High Court, Abuja had on 17th December 2019 ordered that the Director General (DG) BPE be remanded in prison for 30 days for contempt of Court.
The Court had ruled that Okoh’s action was a disobedience to the June 6, 2012 judgment of the Supreme Court which affirmed BFIG as the true owner of ALSCON.
The BPE immediately filed an appeal against the judgment of the lower Court and an application for a stay of execution.
In its ruling, the Court of Appeal had ordered the parties to maintain status quo till the next adjourned date.