The Senate has written to the Chairman, National Council on Privatisation, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, protesting against the liquidation of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited and its mobile subsidiary, the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Gbenga Obadara, who disclosed this in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday, said the lawmakers would favour concession.
Obadara said should the Federal Government go ahead to appoint a liquidator for the national operator, the Senate would also inform such company of its opposition to the proposed liquidation of NITEL and M-Tel.
NCP had recently announced that it had approved three prospective liquidators for NITEL that would have to bid for the final slot to undertake the liquidation of the telecoms operator.
However, it did not name the three prospective liquidators.
Obadara said, “We have said it so well to the Vice-President who chairs the National Council on Privatisation that supervises the Bureau of Public Enterprises. There is no way the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can accept guided liquidation of NITEL.
“They say NITEL owes N351bn but nobody till today is able to tell us who owes NITEL. Nobody can tell us the worth of NITEL. Even from the N351bn they are talking about, they said NITEL and M-Tel owe the Federal Government N171bn. We have it on authority and the records are here that the Federal Government owes NITEL N250bn in services over the years. If you remove the net, how much remains.
“They say NITEL owes banks N64bn. Can it not be renegotiated? Look at the non-core assets of NITEL. It is in the region of several billions of naira. That is why we say you cannot liquidate NITEL. We have already put a caveat on it and whoever they will appoint to liquidate NITEL would be told in strong terms that the Senate of the Federal Republic is against guided liquidation of NITEL in any form.”
He added, “What we want is concession of NITEL, a private public participation arrangement. The concessionaire comes, revives NITEL for about five, 10 years and returns it to the nation. Now we are talking about broadband penetration. The president himself agrees to it. And now we want to sell our SAT-3 to somebody. Does that show any reasoning?
“NITEL has the widest network in the country. They have the widest penetration in the country. It is for personal interest that they want to liquidate NITEL. That is why we say no. They have failed for many years to sell NITEL and now we are saying no to liquidation.
“Why do they want to dispose of NITEL? No nation sells its incumbent operator. They had tried to sell what is not attractive. Let them advertise for concession and you will see how many people that will come forward. Let us adopt another approach.”
Obadara described the proposed guided liquidation of NITEL as fraudulent. He alleged that through guided liquidation, the properties of NITEL numbering more than 5000 across the country would be given to cronies of people in government.