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BPE Probe: Senate cancels sale of Daily Times and eight others

By on December 21, 2011

THE Senate yesterday rescinded the sale of Daily Times Nigeria plc, the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria ALSCON, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, and six other public enterprises formerly owned by the Federal Government.

This followed the Senate’s approval of 45 recommendations of the ad hoc committee that investigated the privatisation and commercialisation of public enterprises by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) from 1999 to date.

The enterprises which sales were rescinded are: the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), Delta Steel Company, Aladja, Jos Steel Rolling Mills and Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

Others include: Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, Abuja International Hotels Limited (Nicon Luxury Hotel), Daily Times Nigeria Plc, Sunti Sugar Company and Bacita Sugar Company.

The upper chamber also rescinded the concession agreements of Tin Can Island (Terminal A) to Joseph Dam Port Services Limited, Koko Port to Greenleigh Nigeria Limited and Port-Harcourt Port (Terminal B) to BUA International Limited for non-performance.

While endorsing the sack of Director-General of the BPE, Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa, the Senate condemned the interference of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the privatisation process.

Three former chief executives of the BPE, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, Dr. Julius Bala and Mrs. Irene Chigbue were reprimanded for seeking direct approval from the president instead of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) in breach of the Public Enterprises Act 1999.

Also, the Senate said Bala should be investigated by anti-graft agencies for approving the illegal sale of the assets of the Daily Times Plc by Folio Communications Limited.

Security agencies were further mandated to recover 70 million pounds belonging to African Petroleum Plc looted by the former head of finance and accounts, Mr. M. O. Ajayi and former treasurer, Mr. Pius C. Idigo prior to the privatisation of the firm in 2001.

Folio Communications Limited and its directors are to be investigated by anti-corruption agencies over the sale of assets of the Daily Times Plc and recovery of the same.

The share purchase agreement of Volkswagen Nigeria Limited was also cancelled and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was asked to probe Barbedos Ventures Limited for economic crimes, while the Federal Inland Revenue Service and Customs were mandated to compute and recover the taxes and import duties incurred by the company for goods smuggled into the country.

The lawmakers also cancelled sale of 270 plots of land at the Delta Steel Township 1 Housing Estate and recommended that the monies should be refunded by the BPE to the beneficiaries.

Nicon Insurance Plc and Nigeria Re-insurance Plc were asked to refund N900 million and N1 billion with accrued interest respectively paid by the BPE in 2007 as contribution of the Federal Government for the recapitalisation of the two firms.

The BPE was mandated to refund bid bonds as approved by the NCP to Kaura Motors Limited (N61. 2m); Onoja & Sons (N625, 000); Agric. Multi Services (N1. 7m) and Abuja Gateway Consortium ($500, 000).

The agency was directed to source funds through budgetary means to settle outstanding staff liabilities in ALSCON (N2.7bn); Delta Steel Company (N5.2bn) and Federal Superphosphate Fertilizer Company (N73m), while privatisation proceeds are to be lodged with the Central Bank of Nigeria, henceforth.

However, after the adoption of the recommendations, Senate President David Mark said it is not within the powers of the Senate to execute and implement the resolutions of the probe report.

He dispelled media insinuations that the Senate was under pressure to withdraw the consideration and adoption of the report, adding that media organisations that made such insinuations should be courageous enough to apologise to the Senate.