LOBBY TO STOP BPE PROBE THICKENS

By NBF News
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'It's more than five years since the sale was done. BUA participated in the negotiation process but the bid was rejected after it made an offer of $25 million and another $5 million to dredge the Escravos Bar, yet it wasn't given.'

Later, Dr. Bala denied before the committee that he never signed the letter which ceded Delta Steel Company to Global Infrastructure.  After he was shown a copy of the letter approving the sale to Global he said: 'I never signed that letter. I've seen the signature and I never signed that letter.

'With computer technology that we have now, it's possible to do anything. I never signed that letter and I maintain that because I'm on oath.'

Pressed by Lawan to explain his ouster from BPE, Dr. Bala replied: 'This is something I also don't know up till now. Up till now, I've not been given any reason to explain why I was told to leave the BPE.'

Meanwhile, Mark said yesterday he had no conflict of interest with the Vice President, Namadi Sambo over any business. Sambo is supervising the NCP.

A statement signed by Special Adviser to the Senate President, Kola Ologbondiyan said: 'Mark and Alhaji Sambo are mutually working together for the success of President Goodluck Jonathan's transformational agenda and have no frosty relationship of any kind between them.

'It is also a huge lie to impute that Vice President Sambo is interested in selling NITEL to a nameless 'foreign investor that is prepared to pay $968 million while Senator Mark has a preference to sell NITEL to an indigenous operator, Globacom, for $450 million'.

'It is important to stress that the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, is neither a member of the National Council of Privatization (NCP) nor the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). He therefore has no input whatsoever in the day-to-day activities of these privatization agencies.

'Also, contrary to the report in a national newspaper, Senator Mark did not order a probe of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). The motion to investigate the collapse of some privatized federal government companies was moved by Senator Ahmed Lawan (ANPP, Yobe) and carried by the whole house.

'The investigation of the sale of these privatized companies is therefore to further the economic interest of our nation just as it is in tandem with the pledge of Senator Mark to engender legislations that will benefit the ordinary Nigerian.

'There is no tussle whatsoever between Senator Mark and Vice President Sambo over the sale of NITEL or any other matter,' the statement added.

In a related development, fresh facts emerged on Tuesday on how top government officials in the Presidency deliberately by-passed the NCP Act over the sale of Kogi State-based Ajaokuta Steel Company.

The company was sold in 2006 to Global Infrastructure as core investor.

Details of the sale which emerged yesterday showed that the approval was never presented to the NCP as the consenting authority neither was the privatisation process discussed at the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Daily Sun gathered from the public hearing that the deal ceding Ajaokuta to Global Infrastructure was 'done in connivance with a top presidency official, his ward and the Ministry of Power and Steel.

'The President and FEC have no power over any company that would be privatized.'

Less than five years after Global Infrastructure bought Ajaokuta which reportedly had 10, 000 workers, the complex has just about 1000 workers as at last December 2010, it was learnt.

Meanwhile, there are clandestine moves to thwart the outcome of the Senate probe. A former top shot in the Presidency reportedly visited the residence of Senate President David Mark 'on a courtesy visit.'

A source privy to the visit of the highly-placed Nigerian to the Senate President said the visit was couched as a 'courtesy call' and specifically time to coincide with 'the 10th year anniversary of a government agency.'

The Senate President has consistently maintained that the upper legislative house will not bow to any form of blackmail on the probe.

Declaring open the public hearing on the investigation on Monday, Senator Mark urged the Senator Ahmed Lawan-led Ad-hoc committee to be fearless and ensure it allows from both sides involved in the privatization exercise to state their case.

Since the Senate probe began on Monday, Nigerians were shocked by the revelation that Federal Government-owned Aluminium Smelting Compny of Nigeria, (ALSCON), Aladja, worth $3.2 billion was sold to a Russian firm, Russal for a paltry $130million. The deal, which was struck by the BPE also saw ALSCON's new owner divert the sum of $120 million meant for the dredging of the Imo River.

The probe has since opened a can of worms on the sale of government companies under its privatization programme. Many of the com It was also observed that rather than yield the expected gains, the exercise had neither boosted economic activities nor helped the unemployment situation in the country. Hearing continues today.