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El-Rufai Faults Atiku on Pentascope contract

By The Citizen

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has faulted the claims of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar that he was above board in his conduct as the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) chairman.

The former minister, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, accused Atiku of 'serial interference with contract award processes that were detailed in the book.'

The statement faulted Atiku's claim that he did not approve the management of the contract involving Pentascope to run Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).
'As chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), Atiku gave his approval in writing on 21 February 2003 for the management contract with Pentascope to be signed. The memo on which Atiku minuted his approval, BPE/I&N/NT/MC/DG/280, is dated 20th February 2003, and was initiated by the director of BPE that was covering the DG's duties at the time.

'By the virtue of the high office he then held, Atiku knows that Pentascope was not foisted on NITEL but emerged from a properly advertised and competitive selection process. After the failure of the first attempt to sell NITEL, it had been decided that there was need for a management contractor to keep the momentum of preparing the company to operate like a private entity and to preserve its assets. Pentascope resumed in NITEL on 28 April 2003, shortly before El Rufai left the BPE to become a minister.

'The Pentascope contract terms included obligations by the BPE to monitor the contract, and for the NITEL board to set up an executive committee to supervise day-to-day operations in NITEL. Between the new BPE leadership that neglected its responsibilities, the NCP, which Atiku chaired and which failed to supervise the BPE and the bureaucrats and politicians around the Ministry of Communications, the management contract was frustrated and terminated in 2005,' the statement added.

El-Rufai also denied Atiku's claim that NITEL was making N100 billion in profit annually, adding that the company never made such profits.
'NITEL had never paid a single dividend to the FGN(Federal Government of Nigeria)  until the BPE forced it to pay N3 billion in 2001! While the  politicians and bureaucrats were fighting to reclaim ministerial control of NITEL (and the inflated equipment contracts that came with it), the company was fast losing market share to the new kids on the block, the GSM companies that understood how to create and sustain value,' he said.

According to him, the  former vice-president's media team in trying to defense  Atiku against the allegations that he was interfering in  contract award processes during his chairmanship of the NCP, had reproduced el-Rufai's assertion that Atiku did not meddle in the privatisation processes, which the statement said were different and distinct from seeking contracts for friends.
The statement also said Atiku influenced the award of GSM equipment contract for NITEL to Ericsson at the expense of Motorola.

It said: 'It is untrue that the NITEL GSM contract in question was split. Rather it was awarded to Ericsson, but at the lower price submitted by Motorola, because of Atiku's intense lobby and smears deployed to advance Ericsson's bid. Atiku and Abdullahi Yari, his then ADC, at different times spoke to el-Rufai to favour Ericsson.

'It is Atiku's responsibility to explain why he became an Ericsson salesman, although the investigations conducted by Motorola after the debacle makes clear he was not engaged in an altruistic mission.

'This incident had diplomatic repercussions as the American government wrote to protest this loss by an American company that had submitted the cheaper bid. Atiku persists in his laughable assertion that el-Rufai's brother is a shareholder and member of Motorola's board - something any person can research and confirm to be an outright falsehood.'

The statement was a reaction to the claim by Atiku's camp that el-Rufai, who was the director-general of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), had cleared Atiku of any misdemeanour in his book, “The Accidental Public Servant”, which detailed his experience in the public service right from his appointment as the BPE director-general. And as BPE director-general,  el-Rufai, was under the supervision of Atiku who as vice-president, chaired the NCP.