Senate opposes liquidation of NITEL, prefers Public-Private Partnership

By The Citizen

The Senate has asked the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to discountenance any plan to liquidate the moribund Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL).

Instead of the 'guided liquidation' of NITEL that BPE is pursuing, the upper chamber said NITEL should be concessioned or managed under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Gbenga Obadara, stated this at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday.

He said the committee told the BPE and National Council on Privatisation (NCP) not to liquidate NITEL and Mtel.

He said BPE informed the committee that NITEL was indebted to the Federal Government and others to the tune of N351 billion, adding that they were surprised that BPE or NCP could not give the worth of NITEL.

He said the committee is concerned that BPE intended to liquidate a firm it did not know its value.

He said: 'We met with BPE and NCP on the way forward over NITEL and Mtel to obtain the situation report of the proposed privatisation of both entities.

'We were told that the exercise will go through guided liquidation. We took them on why NITEL should be liquidated in any form at all. We thought about how NITEL would be put to a better use.

'We were confronted with the fact that NITEL is owing the Federal Government and other people about N351 billion. We also asked to know those owing NITEL?

'They could not give us the fact of who is owing NITEL. We were later told that NITEL is owing the Federal Government N179 billion. But with facts available, we know that the Federal Government and government's agencies are owing NITEL about N250 billion.

'They (BPE) said NITEL is still owing banks about N64 billion which we know can still be negotiated.

'The people that are owing NITEL we don't know. We asked what is the worth of NITEL today? They could not tell us the worth of NITEL.

'How do you then sell what you don't know the worth of? As people representing Nigerians from various Senatorial districts, we thought it fit that we should not allow NITEL to be sold without knowing or having empirical facts to corroborate what they were telling us.

'We took them on why it should be guided liquidation or liquidation at all.

'If you look at international best practices today, it is Public-Private Partnership PPP) or concession. The BPE failed to tell us the procedure they are going to adopt in the liquidation.'

Obadara said the committee recognised the fact that no nation sells its common wealth, adding that NITEL as a major government firm badly run by past administrations, should not be sold.

The lawmaker said that when he assumed the chairmanship of the privatisation committee, he assured Nigerians that the country's enterprises would not go the way of others in the past.

He noted that members of the committee believed that if NITEL was given a life line through concessionaires or PPP arrangement, 'with good conditions, including tax rebates', Nigerians would benefit from the organisation.