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FG to sell Nitel in pieces

Prince Osuagwu & Laide Akinboade
AFTER a long silence on  the fate of the moribund Nigerian telecommunications Limited, NITEL, the Federal government may have decided to sell the company in bits and pieces.  This is even as the mobile arm of the company, M-Tel narrowly escaped heavy embarrassment, weekend, as it took the orders of the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and Inspector General of Police, IG, Ogbonna Onovo, to stop the eviction team that attempted to throw out properties of the mobile operator, on account of alleged illegal occupancy.

NITEL Building
NITEL Building

Vanguard gathered from reliable sources at the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, that there was a plan to  unbundle NITEL and sell it in bits, while carving out  two or three more licenses from the existing order.

The source however said that the approval of the National Council on Privatisation, NCP which oversees the BPE and that of Nitel’s yet to be officially inaugurated interim technical board, would be sought before the plan comes into full force.

Close BPE sources hinted that about five separate units may be created from NITEL and sold separately, including the Nitel’s SAT-3 undersea cable system . Others on the plan to stand separately included the analogue cellular phone STAC and CDMA units. What this means is that should the plan pulls through, BPE may also call for fresh bids for these separate licenses.

However, this may not entirely be a new plan as BNP Paribas and Eleda Capital Partners, both Advisors on the NITEL sale, had sometime in May, when BPE invited fresh bids for a 51 percent stake in Nitel and 100 percent in MTEL, suggested that bidders could apply for the two firms separately or as a combined entity.

The federal government had in 2006 sold its 51 percent interests in NITEL, to Transnational corporation, Transcorp for $500m. But since November 14 of that year when TRANSCORP officially became the core investor in Nitel, it seemed to have struggled althrough, but in vain, to keep a standing position. It allegedly reduced the workforce by 70%, disengaging about 70,000 staff out of the 11,000 left by former NITEL husband, Pentascope. The fortunes of the company, further deepened as the 440,000 Nitel lines and above 1 million Mtel lines left by Pentascope, nosedived to miserable 40,000 and 200,000 lines respectively under Transcorp.

With a lot of other intending woes, the government recently stripped Transcorp of the shares and renewed efforts to sell Nitel again. It is also left to be seen if selling Nitel in bits may provide the lasting solution

M-Tel’s near eviction and VP, IG interventionMeanwhile, the fate of Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited (M-Tel), got worse on Friday as the telecommunication company was almost ejected from its office headquarters at Wuse II in Abuja. The eviction team that came on Friday night to the Headquarters of the telecommunication giant started throwing out the property of the company from the windows and doors.

It was the intervention of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan and the personal presence of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, that stopped the eviction team from the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) . Vanguard gathered that the said property has been sold to a government official whose identity could not be established.

Meanwhile, the property has been M-Tel’s headquarters since the company was carved out from NITEL. It was alleged that the property was bought from a private owner but Vanguard, learnt that  FCT Administration sold it to a new owner.

According to a member of  NITEL Technical Board and Managing Director of NigComSat, Mr. Ahmed Rufai, when he heard about the eviction contacted the office of the Vice President immediately on Friday.  The Vice President quickly called Minister of FCTA, Senator Adamu Aliero and FCT Deputy Commissioner of Police who in turn commanded the Deputy Superintendent of Police in charge of the eviction process to stop.

Mr. Rufai , on Friday night battled with the eviction team, numbering over 25 from throwing the properties of the company through the windows and doors.

It was the personal intervention of Inspector General of Police, Mr. Onovo and the Commissioner of Police for the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. John Haruna that stopped the eviction.

ADC to the Vice President, Mr. Moses Gitago, also showed up to stop the forceful ejection of the mobile telecommunication firm.
The leader of the demolition team, a lady said she was following the instruction of the Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Disposal of Federal Government Property, Alhaji Bawa Tuga, to evict M-Tel from the property.

Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Disposal of Federal Government Property, Alhaji  Tuga when contacted denied ordering the eviction of M-Tel. He said he was in town and would go and meet the Minister of the FCT to know what was happening.


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