Buhari to revoke sale of NITEL, revisit power reforms

By The Rainbow

President Muhammed Buhari may revoke the sale of Nigeria Telecommunications Company and power generation and distribution firms, according to sources close to him.

The planned action is based on reports reaching the president alleging some underhand deals in the sale of these public assets, The Rainbow learnt.

One of the sources, who is close to the new president, said that several reports link the buyers of these priced asset of the public to some top members of former President Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Nigerians are complaining bitterly that the power supply situation in the country has taken turn to the worse since after the sale of the generation and distribution companies to private investors, this despite financial help from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The view among the inner circle of the new administration, according to our source, is that because of the vested interests of some key actors of the immediate past administration the process could not throw up genuine investors that have the competence and concrete plans to turn around the power sector.

“We have discovered that the sale of some critical public assets made by the past administration was a farce. Most of the companies were bought by people directly or indirectly associated with presidency in the outdone dispensation,” the source said.

It was learnt however that some people close to the president is advising caution in handling the review or revocation of the sale of assets to avoid sending out signals to international investors that every new administration would review assets sold by the previous administration.

It will be recalled that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua revoked the sale of the ¬†refineries sold then to Dangote promoted firm.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar a few weeks ago said that Jonathan’s administration got the Privatisation of the power sector wrong.

The Adamawa-born politician, who was himself chairman of National Council,on Pravitisation for the eight years of President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, that the Jonathan government ought not to have gone into the privatisation of distribution companies at the time it did.

“What are they distributing,” he had asked.

In his view, what ought to have happened was to privatise the generation companies first and ensure that they generate and transmit enough power before you go into the sale of distribution companies.

He said that what is happening now is that the distribution companies that borrowed a lot money to buy the assets are unable to sustain their commitments because they do not find enough power to distribute.

Atiku said that this was why the government had to provide them bail out funds.

He thinks that if the incoming administration of Muhammad Buhari does not learn from the mistakes of the past ones, it might follow the same trend.

Buhari had indicated after his victory at the polls that his administration would take a comprehensive look at the reforms at the power sector to ascertain why they had succeeded only in keeping Nigerians in darkness rather than providing the light as they were intended.

The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) had last December formally approved the sale of NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, MTEL, to NATCOM Consortium through a guided liquidation process. For $252, that is after several attempts to sale the public enterprise fell through.

Some industry insiders claim that NITEL was deliberately neglected and allowed to decay in order to make it unattractive to buyers. But even at that they claim that the enterprise was grossly undervalued.

Mr Alhassan Sunday who is is the President, Nigeria Union of Postal Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE), said recently that NITEL was evaluated about a year ago and its value was put at over one billion dollars. However, it will,be recalled that ILL made a bid of $1.1 billion in 2001 and failed to meet the payment terms, and subsequent bids much lower than that still failed.

A close associate of the new president confirmed that there had been discussions on the future of privatization and the fate of the privatized assets in the country, would not say whether specific decisions as to the fate of the sale of NITEL, discos and gencos had been taken.

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