NATCOM takes over NITEL, Buhari urges review of deal
YET again, the nation’s former telecommunications giant, Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) and its mobile subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTEL) changed ownership yesterday as the Federal Government formally handed it over to the new core investor NATCOM Consortium Development and Investment Ltd.
This followed a successful conclusion of a guided liquidation transaction by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) under the supervision of the National Council of Privatization (NCP) headed by the Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo on December 3, 2014 where NATCOM emerged as the winner by offering $252.25million for the assets. Meanwhile, over $1billion dollars is required to revive NITEL and MTEL.
At the event, all the ownership instruments including operational licenses, gateway certificates and government’s share certificates of NITEL and its subsidiaries the MTEL were transferred by the NCP Chairman to the new owner signifying the handover, assuring that the transaction process followed the best international standards. His words: “
As Chairman of NCP, who also presided over this transaction, I can confirm to you that today is the first time I am meeting the Chairman of the NATCOM Consortium, who emerged the successful new owner of NITEL/MTEL. The process was transparent and guided by international best practices. The new core investor emerged through merit considerations.”
The claim by Sambo, who was represented at the hand-over ceremony, which held at the Benue Plaza Corporate Office of NITEL in Abuja by Mr. Emma Amadi, an engineer in the Federal Ministry of Communications, was made amid calls by some concerned Nigerians for the in-coming administration to review the entire NITEL liquidation process, which some said was everything but transparent.
The critics added that it was a deliberate action by some powerful cabals in the President Jonathan’s Administration to allegedly purchase public utilities by undervaluing them.
One of such critics is a Development Economist; Mr. Odilim Enweagbara, who insists that the $252 million price for which NITEL and its subsidiary, MTEL was sold, was grossly below its value, considering the entity’s generous assets across the country. He told The Guardian yesterday:
“The $250 million sale of NITEL / MTEL is a fraud that the Buhari Administration should reverse immediately because the real value of its landed assets in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt alone is more than $1 billion.” Yesterday’s transfer of NITEL / MTEL ownership to a private hand was the fourth failed attempts to sell NITEL/MTEL.
Vice President Namadi Sambo urged the new core investor to resuscitate the companies and ensure improved service delivery to Nigerian consumers, adding that the reform and privatization programme of government is focused on the economy and ultimately the greatest good for the greatest number of Nigerians.
Chairman of NATCOM Consortium, Olatunde Ayeni, who commended the transparent and open process the bidding was conducted, observed that a new and strong brand has entered the Nigerian telecommunications market, adding that NATCOM is resolved to deliver a unique brand that would wow and delight the Nigerians customers and market.
He said, “We believe there is a vacuum in this market, and that vacuum is the space that this unique brand its business proposition would be value and customer-driven. It’s was a hard sale to find a technical partner who believe in the company due to previous efforts by government to privatize the company.
The NCP had approved the privatization of NITEL and M-Tel through guided liquidation, approving the appointment of Chief Olutola Senbore as the liquidator of NITEL/M-Tel on November 11, 2013. Senbore stated that with the sale of assets of NITEL and MTEL to NATCOM consortium, the opportunity of resuscitating the moribund business of the two telecoms company has been created, adding that the assets sold to NATCOM are not to be resold but to be used for generating telecommunications services.
He maintained that in turning around the business of NITEL/MTEL; NATCOM would create employment and add value to telecommunications services and products. Sambo listed the previous unsuccessful privatization transactions of NITEL to include the Strategic core investor sale of 51 percent shareholding of NITEL to Investors International London Ltd (IILL) in 2001, the failed Management Contract by Pentascope in 2005, the aborted Orascom Telecoms bid in 2005, the strategic core investor sale, through negotiated sale strategy to Transcorp, cancelled in 2009 and the strategic core investor sale in 2011 where New Generation Communications Ltd and Omen International Ltd emerged as preferred and reserved bidders respectively.