Stories about asset stripping not correct — Monarch
Paramount Ruler of Ikot Abasi, HRM Edidem Udo Joe Ntukobom, urges efforts to be stepped up in getting ALSCON to recommence operations. He also debunked allegations of assets stripping by operators in this interview with ANIETIE AKPAN.
What is the relationship between your people and the new management of ALSCON?
Since the new management, which is ALSCON-RUSAL took over, the company related well with its host community. In fact, the company gave us 24-hour power supply until the place was closed down. So, I would say that they were quite good to the community, despite the hard times or the hardship that they went through.
It was costing them money to give us light, and I understand they were getting money from their headquarters to maintain the plant and pay the staff. They were also giving scholarship to our youths, as well as, carryout community projects in almost all communities in Ikot Abasi. We believe that when they come back fully, they will give us light.
There were some compensation issues that led to a face-off between the new management and some of your subjects. What is exactly the situation now?
As we all know, these are indeed hard times and when you are not operating, certainly there will be hardship. There were issues of compensation, which were caused by a mix up with the old and new management, and which they have said that they are working hard to ensure that the monies are paid. I should also let you know that the government is equally involved in the compensation thing, as it is not entirely that of RUSAL-ALSCON. The union is running between here and Abuja to sort things out.
But despite this, there are still pockets of complaints that RUSAL-ALSCON is toying with the community’s interest
ALSCON, which is into the production of aluminium is not producing now at all. So, when people say that ALSCON is not taking care of the community, I honestly don’t understand. The firm spends millions every month to maintain the plant and pay its staff members, and I personally believe that they have done well to maintain the plant, even though there is the general belief among members of the community that something should come to them.
There were fears that the place has been thoroughly vandalised. So, is there any asset stripping going on in the place?
Stories about the place being vandalised are not very correct. RUSAL-ALSCON bought asset and liabilities and even when the Federal Government delegation came around, it was surprised because everything the team members touched worked. The truth is, there were unwanted scraps in the premises that they no longer had need for. These were sold. The community has the right to stop the trucks that head out of the facility once we are sure that any form of looting was going on. There was even a time information went out that the plant was being destroyed, but what we are seeing is not what we heard. Now, something is being done and ALSCON will be back. So, it is not true that the place has been looted. Right now, there is no recycling plant in ALSCON, if there was one, I am sure they would have made more money from recycling.
Contrary to what you said, some people are strongly of the view that RUSAL is patronising the palace, and that is why the palace cannot stop them from the alleged plant stripping and vandalisation that is going on?
That is a lie. I was the general manager of a company and I know what it means to run a company, which is unlike what happens in government, where there is a lot of favouritism and personal relationship. I worked with an American company, and I was trained to make sure that what is right is right, and we were compensated for what we did. So, everybody around me know that my yes is yes, and my no is no. In that case, the issue of patronising the palace is absolute falsehood. When people see a large delegation with cars here, they think so much money is brought in, but it is not so. I even give out good drinks to my guests when they come. Because of my cordial relationship with the managing director, if something happens and I call him, he will come around, and some people believe that when he comes in here frequently he brings a lot of money. This is completely false. I am here to protect my people when necessary, and when they are right and not when they are wrong. However, when they go wrong, I plead on their behalf, and if they are right, I will stand by that right.
The managing director of RUSAL was alleged to have insulted your person, what exactly happened and what is the relationship between your palace and RUSAL-ALSCON?
The relationship the palace has with the outfit is just like you would find in any other place. However, I can say that the relationship is cordial, and I intervene in issues whenever it’s necessary to do so. The issue of insult has been settled and resolved, and those that needed to be blamed have been blamed. So, I will not go into details of that, but normal relationship has been restored and there is no problem whatsoever.
Some people are of the view that RUSAL should depart and pave way for BFIG that was the highest bidder to come in. Does this hold any water?
Let me put it this was. The Federal Government is working hard to restore the past glory of ALSCON. Having said that, let me ask, if you were given a property to buy and a time frame was set and you could not pay up, does that guarantee you to be the owner of the property? This is exactly what happened between the BFIG and the Federal Government. They ones there now were doing some good things in this community until they stopped production. They gave us free 24-hour electricity, but that came to an end when production stopped.
Are you in any way interceding on behalf of the workers?
We have been pleading with the company to consider the hard times that the workers are going through. Most of them have children in schools, and from time-to-time sickness will come, and there would be no money for them to afford medicare. There have been cases were deaths occur, and that is why we are always pleading with the Federal Government to do something about their plight.
Before now, that is when the place was up and running, we had serious influx of people, but since things went down, the number of people coming around equally plunged. Even people that were doing their small businesses, including the selling of ice blocks made money because they had 24-hours electricity supply, but now, there is nothing to really attract people. We are pleading with the Federal Government to give us steady power supply. We have the Ibom Power Plant in our state, but I pray that we do not remain like Afam that produced light but had no light until late. If ALSCON comes back, we believe they will give us light and everyone will benefit.I want my subjects to cooperate with ALSCON and the government of the day because that is very important, because the government is planning well for Ikot Abasi.
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