Nigeria: Senate Rejects Liquidation of Nitel, MTEL

Telecoms

The Senate Committee on Privatisation on Tuesday, rejected plans to liquidate the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) and its mobile arm, Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTEL).

The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Gbenga Obadara (ACN-Ogun), made the announcement at an interactive session with officials of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).

The committee chairman frowned at the attitude of some Federal Government agencies whom he observed, had contributed to the collapse of the companies by refusing to settle their indebtedness to the companies.

He promised that the committee would ensure that all government agencies, indebted to NITEL settled their debts, without further delay. Obadara said the committee would also tour all NITEL offices in the country to determine the exact value of the companies, which the BPE had put at between N80 billion and N90 billion as at 2009.

He expressed displeasure at government's plans to liquidate the companies without making effort to find out their values. "Nobody is telling us the worth of NITEL; we are only told how much NITEL owes. We should understand that it is all about protecting government's enterprises.

"The condition of NITEL is not as bad as people portray. We have the option of making MTEL work; we could get credible people to run it. We are not impressed about the term 'guided liquidation' because the same executive has masterminded the liquidation of most of the privatised companies since its inception in 2001," he said.

The Chairman, Technical Committee on Privatisation, Atedo Peterside, put NITEL/MTEL's liabilities at N351. 21 billion. Peterside was summoned by the committee alongside the Director General of the BPE, Ms Bolanle Onagoruwa, over the planned liquidation. The N35 billion debt owed NITEL he said, would be difficult to recover because the last bill paid to NITEL was paid about five years ago, adding that most of the companies indebted to the company had folded up.

Peterside also told the committee that the only way the enterprises could attract investors was to liquidate them. "It is only through liquidation that investors can show interest. In that case, liquidators would take responsibilities for the debt owed creditors.

"No potential investor will indicate interest in a business that will put creditors on their necks. "