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BPE Probe Report: Senate Panel Seeks Onogoruwa's Sack, Indicts El-Rufai, Chigbue

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…Wants Ex-DG, Bala Investigated Over Daily Times

ABUJA, November 23, (THEWILL) - The Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Ms Bolanale Onagoruwa seems caught up in the web of the rot in the Bureau as the Senate panel, which probed its activities turned up a damning report and recommended that she be relieved of her appointment for gross incompetence in the management of the Bureau and for illegal and fraudulent sale of the 5 percent Federal Government of Nigeria residual shares in Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited (EPCL).

The panel pushed further and accordingly recommended for a holistic re-organization of the management of BPE.

The panel also recommended that the former Directors-General, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Dr. Julius Bala and Mrs. Irene Nkechi Chigbue should be reprimanded by the National Council on Privatization for seeking approval directly from the President instead of the NCP as stipulated in the Public Enterprises Act 1999.

Also the report wants Dr. Bala to be investigated by anti-graft agencies for giving approval to Folio Communication Limited for the illegal sale of assets of Daily Times Nigeria Plc, this was even as the panel recommended that the NCP should rescind the sale of Daily Times to Folio in obedience to the several court judgments and that the sale of the assets of Daily Times by Folio and its directors be investigated by anti-graft agencies and assets recovered should be resold.

In the same vein the report asked the NCP to rescind the sale of Abuja International Hotels Limited (NICON Luxury Hotel) and Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja for failure of the core investors to deliver on the fundamental provision of Share Purchase Agreement/Post Acquisition Plan.

These were the major highlights of the report, which was laid on the senate table on Tuesday. The report was sequel to an intense probe of the BPE activities from inception to date by a Senate Ad-Hoc Committee led by Senator Ahmad Lawan (ANPP, Yobe). The probe followed a senate resolution to that effect.

Nonetheless, the report frowned at incessant Presidential interference in the privatization process and recommended that it be avoided in future.

However, other far reaching recommendations were that the NCP should rescind the sale of Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) to Dayson Holdings BV and re-advertise it for sale, ditto for Delta Steel Company to Global infrastructure Holdings Limited and Global Infrastructure Nigeria Limited and also re-advertise the company for sale.

It also recommend that the Federal government should implement the Inter-Ministerial Technical Audit Report on Ajaokuta Steel Complex dated July 2011 which recommended completion and commissioning of the plant by the Federal Government.

Furthermore, the panel recommended that the BPE should discontinue the use of privatization proceeds to settle staff terminal benefits, consultancy fees, transaction expenses and execution of capital projects. “It should approach the National Assembly for appropriation as provided for in Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended,” said the report.

Continuing the report directed that BPE should close all privatization proceeds accounts in commercial banks and henceforth put all proceeds in Privatization Proceeds Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria in compliance with section 19(1) of the Public Enterprises (Privatization and Commercialization) Act 1999.

The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) the panel recommended should immediately be drafted to investigate the economic crimes being perpetrated against the nation at VON Automobile Nigeria Limited premises in Lagos by Barbedos Ventures Limited (BVI) and that the taxes and import duties accruable to the Federal Government on all goods smuggled into the warehouse of VON Automobile Nigeria Limited should be computed and recovered by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) respectively.

The Senate is yet to debate the final report, but sources told THEWILL that the acceptance is almost a fait accompli.

Concluding the report, the panel observed that while a total of 122 enterprises have been privatized during the period under review, the goals of the programme as envisioned have not been reasonably met. The committee found that while the Port concessions, Petrochemicals and Cement sectors are doing well, some critical sectors such as the Steel, Automobile and Sugar have failed to meet the desired goals.

From the committee’s findings, there was inadequate transparency and failure to comply with privatization procedure in the sale of some public enterprises.