Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Nigeria - Presidency suspends BPE director over NITEL

[next] The inconclusive bid for the sale of national telecom carrier, Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), has claimed its first casualty.

The presidency on Monday evening asked Christopher Anyanwu, the Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), to proceed on an indefinite suspension over what presidency sources called "official misconduct." Mr. Anyanwu was suspended not only for his poor handling of the bid process for the sale of NITEL, but for other official actions as well.

The Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, who is also the Chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), was said to be displeased over reports of a welter of controversies that the bid was tainted by several irregularities bordering on lack of transparency and due diligence as well as due process.

It was gathered that Mr. Jonathan directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Yayale Ahmed, to issue Mr. Anyanwu with a letter asking him to proceed on the suspension immediately, while demanding explanations from him concerning some other undisclosed official issues.

Large scale manipulation

Though New Generation Telecommunications Consortium was announced as the preferred bidder with an offer of $2.5billion (about N375billion), one of the bidding companies had petitioned the Presidency alleging a large scale manipulation of the process by the BPE to the disadvantage of the rest of the bidders.

China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited, which was named as technical partners for the preferred bidder during the bid, not only denied any relationship with the consortium, but also from "the preliminary contact with certain potential bidders who proposed to participate in the proposed privatisation" it had "not commenced any negotiations with the relevant parties with respect to any substantive and legally binding agreements," nor has it "participated in any direct discussions or negotiations with any relevant parties involved."

The same company was also mentioned as technical partner to another company that participated in the bid, in apparent contravention of the bid guidelines which forbade due partnership with participating bidding firms.

In spite of the controversy, acting chairman, Technical Committee of the NCP, Taiwo Osipitan, not only recommended that the bid result be ratified, but that the preferred winner should be issued with a confirmation letter, as the transactions followed a "very transparent bid process" in accordance with international best practices and standards.

Mr. Anyanwu's suspension is coming ahead of the rescheduled meeting of the NCP billed for today to consider the controversial bid result.

Presidency suspends BPE director over NITEL

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