By Tony Edike
Thursday, March 11, 2004
ENUGU— THE Nigerian Coal Corporation, Enugu has embarked on the sale of its assets to generate funds for the upkeep of the establishment following the inability of the Federal Government to release funds for its activities.Already, several plots of land belonging to the corporation have been sold to private individuals to raise money on the orders of the Management Board of the establishment. Unconfirmed reports said several millions of naira was raked from the aggressive sale of the property, but the funds so far generated has not been channeled to the payment of the over two years salary arrears being owed workers of the corporation.
A Presidential Technical Committee on Coal production was set up in July last year, to study the problems of the corporation and recommend the way forward, but Vanguard learnt that the committee is yet to round off its assignment, as workers of the corporation remained redundant waiting for the report.Even though the committee is yet to turn in its report, sources said, about 920 workers of the corporation may be laid off in line with the recommendation of the technical committee. Most of the workers have not performed any duty since the stoppage of work in the establishment about two years ago.
The Management Board’s decision to sale some of the corporation’s assets, it was further gathered, was aimed at raising funds to off-set some of the outstanding huge debts including arrears of workers’ salary but the amount is yet to be used for the purpose.The corporation was said to have received its last subvention of N500 million from the Federal Government in 2001, while the staff received their last salary in August 2002.The presidency, Vanguard learnt, became reluctant in pumping more funds into the corporation because it is no longer viable in addition to the alleged inability of the management board to effectively utilize the over N2.8 billion it received since 1990 to date.The Acting Managing Director of the Corporation, Mr. Gabriel Ezeani could not be reached for his comments on the massive sale of the corporation’s property but the Chief Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ibe Okpokwu, confirmed the story even though he said that the affected lands were leased out and not sold."The board’s decision was to lease out the land that were not in use, we didn’t sell the lands,” he said.
Okpokwu said that the management was aware that some former staff of the corporation were involved in the sale and confiscation of the corporation’s property, including residential quarters.The corporation’s land at Coal Camp and Mission Avenue in Enugu were reportedly sold to some businessmen who have since erected structures including shops and fuel stations there. The sale of the plots of land was said to have generated some rancour between the management and the board due to the meager amount allegedly realized from the deal.The board, according sources, had expected not less than N60 million from the sale of the lands, but the management claimed that only N10 million was paid for the property, a situation that forced the board to threaten a reversal of the decision to give out the property.