President Muhammadu Buhari has announced plans to probe the sale of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL and its subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunications Limited, MTEL.
The President said this yesterday when officials of the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology briefed him of the ministry’s activities and status.
The ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Tunji Olaopa, disclosed the planned probe of the firms’ sale to State House correspondents after meeting the President behind closed-doors.
Olaopa said Buhari had directed that his ministry should prepare a memo for him on the transaction.
According to him, the President’s concern was to make sure Nigerians were not short-changed in the deal.
“The President was concerned about the liquidation of NITEL. He is not opposed to its privatisation but he wants to know and he wants us to bring a memo on how the whole transaction was undertaken so that he would know whether Nigeria was short-changed,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary added that Buhari also raised concerns over the quality of service being offered by telecommunications firms in the country.
He said the delegation explained to Buhari the problems responsible for the poor services, including multiple taxation and right of way among others.
Olaopa was optimistic that Buhari would wade into the situation in order to ensure that Nigerians get value for their money.
He continued: “The President was concerned by the quality of service of telecommunication operators. The President is very concerned about the whole issue of privatisation that is hindering the investments in ICT infrastructure and that he will personally champion this.
“The President talked about the potential of the ICT sector in generating employment.”
A statement later issued by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, explained that Buhari directed the officials to work harder to fully develop the revenue-generation potential of the information technology sector.
President Buhari also directed the ministry to bring forward for his consideration and approval, all pending proposals for the development of the country’s IT sector which require the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
“Where you don’t need EXCO approval and you are not in breach of the law and will not lose money, you can go ahead. Now that oil costs less and we are contending with its theft, we have to move to areas where we can realise revenue quickly,” the President said.
President Buhari welcomed the plan by the ministry to use post offices across the country for IT and financial transactions, especially in the rural communities, saying that he was happy to hear that “we are recovering the post offices from rats and rodents.”
“The President also asked for a comprehensive report on the sale of the Nigerian Telecommunications Company, NITEL, saying that he was concerned by the continuing protests of former NITEL employees and other Nigerians over the manner in which assets of the company were sold,” the statement read.
Nigerian Pilot recalls that the National Council on Privatisation on April 26, 2015 directed the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE to hand over NITEL/MTEL to NATCOM Consortium.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Council presided over by former Vice President Namadi Sambo.
Deputy Chairman of the Council’s Technical Committee on Privatisation, Haruna Sambo, made the decision known at a press briefing held after the meeting.
Sambo explained that the directive was given because the preferred bidder had paid the total cost of acquisition of the companies.
“You recall that at the last NCP meeting, approval was made for the financial bid for NITEL/MTEL by the bidder, NATCOM Consortium, at the cost of $ 252.251million.
“Today (April 26) at the Council meeting, it approved the hand over to NATCOM Consortium, having paid the cost of acquisition.
“By this approval, the process has come to a closure and the Council has mandated the BPE to hand over the two companies to the preferred winner, of course, after all other outstanding issues are taken care of.
“With this, the transaction has come to an end and Council asks BPE to hand over the two companies to the bid winner, NATCOM Consortium,” he had said.


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