A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja last week gave an interim order stopping the Federal Government from going ahead with the privatisation of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). Bidding exercise for the national carrier by prospective buyers was expected to commence last week but for the order of the high court.

Employees of NITEL had approached the court asking it to halt the move by the Federal Government to remove SAT-3 fibre assets from NITEL before privatizing it.

The NITEL staff who approached the court through their associations are contending that the removal of SAT-3 will deprive NITEL of its carrier status and will pose negative implication in the telecommunications industry. They also contended that the privatisation of the national carrier would hit a brick- wall if SAT-3 was detached from the asset of NITEL, pointing out that "SAT-3 is a major feature that makes NITEL the first National carrier. The case has yet to be heard on its merits. A hearing will commence on 15 December.

The unions used by NITEL staff as platform to invoke the jurisdiction of the court are the National Union of Postal and Telecommunication Employees (NUPTE) and Senior Staff Association of Utilities, Statutory Corporations and Government Companies (SSAUCGOC). Enterprise (BPE), Nigeria Cabling and Telecoms Networks Ltd (NCNL) and the Federation Attorney General were named as respondents. The Chief Executive of NITEL, Mr A. J. Mashi has described SAT3 as the company’s “cash cow”.

The Vanguard