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Federal Government to revoke Coal Mining licenses.
Minister of Power, Chinedu Nebo,
Federal Government has vowed to revoke the coal mining licenses of firms that were awarded blocs to prospect for the mineral but are yet to put them to use.
Minister of Power, Chinedu Nebo, announced this at the Presidential Villa after a meeting of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) chaired by Vice-President Namadi Sambo on Thursday.
The meeting also discussed the stepping up of resolution of the litigation
over the Ajaokuta Steel Complex in Kogi State to pave way for the eventual privatisation of the plant currently valued at $5 billion and maintained with about N300 million monthly wage bill.
At a news briefing after the NCP meeting, Nebo said government was not happy at the way many of the over 12 coal bloc awardees have held onto the licences like land speculators instead of mining coal or relinquishing the licences to more serious explorers.
The NCP lamented that the situation has starved many industrial firms of much-needed locally produced coal to run their power plants which they have converted to coal-powered plants, and have therefore resorted to importation of coal.
One month notice had been given to the oil bloc owners to explain their lack of readiness to utilise the licences.
This period of grace has since lapsed with some of them making untenable excuses, the minister added.
“Council today decided to do something to ensure that those holding coal licences, like land speculators, give way. They cannot be holding the licences while we are searching for coal. Those who do not want to immediately produce coal should have their licenses withdrawn,” Nebo said.
He also disclosed that legal teams were looking into lease issued to Geometric Power Ltd, Aba, and Interstate Ltd, Enugu, in order to arrive at amicable resolution of the impasse between the electricity companies and the Federal Government so that energy consumers in the areas can have improved supply.
Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Musa Sada, also disclosed that the litigation between the Federal Government and Global Holding Ltd, whose purchase of Ajaokuta Steel Plant was revoked by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration, was also being resolved quickly through Industrial Arbitration Tribunal.
He said President Goodluck Jonathan, determined to bring the plant back to life, ordered a stepping up of the negotiations to resolve the dispute which is now being done under supervision of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
An agreement between both parties is expected to be signed and deposited at the Industrial Arbitration Tribunal, said Sada.
He also he pointed out that it would not involve any monetary compensation to GHL.
The minister also stressed that Sambo, who chairs the NCP, was equally desirous of seeing huge progress on the matter and had during the meeting given guidelines and timelines concerning the agreements so as to get the plant freed for further development and eventual privatisation.
He noted that government intends to have the Ajaokuta plant working well at the time of privatisation, and for that even labour-related issues would be adequately resolve soon as Ministry of Finance had been involved to get necessary entitlements settled.
Director-General of the BPE, Benjamin Dikki, pointed out that Nigeria’s industrial revolution and reform would be stunted if Ajaokuta plant did return to maximum production quickly, especially given the emerging auto plants in Nigeria.
He also announced the full liquidation of NITEL/Mtel.
Sole Administrator of the Ajaokta plant, Isa Onobore, explained that it had been 98 per cent ready since 1994 and that the management had invited billet converters and other investors with who agreements have been signed to produce rods.
No part of the plant has been ceded to any of these firms/investors despite these agreements, he said.