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Controversy over NITEL buyout may scuttle deal

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NITEL Head Office
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has advised The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) not to cancel the sale of NITEL to the preferred bidder. In February, New Generation Telecommunication Limited offered to pay $2.5 billion for the purchase for a
controlling stake in Nigeria’s state-owned telco and its bid was accepted.

CNPP’s National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, yesterday addressed the issue at a press briefing in Abuja, writes Nigeria’s daily This Day.

“Information reaching CNPP is that the new cabal around the Acting President is persuading the Acting President as the Chairman of NCP to cancel the bid with utter disregard that Unicom China has stated clearly that Unicom Europe is in contact with New Generations Telecommunications’ bid, thus reversing their earlier position”, said Okechukwu.

Two days after the bid was accepted, it was reported that China Unicom, one of the partners in the preferred consortium, had no part in the bid. The Chinese company later confirmed that a European subsidiary was indeed interested in NITEL.

Despite these recent revelations, controversy still surrounds the $2.5 billion deal. Moreover, the Director General of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPE), Christopher Anyanwu, directly involved in the privatization process, got a letter of suspension, raising more questions about the validity of the bid.

CNPP is opposed to the cancellation of the NITEL bid, saying such a course of action would further expose NITEL’s unfavourable position. The operator’s liabilities are estimated to be between $1.5 to $1.8 billion.

CNPP has also alleged that the $510 million earlier paid by Transcorp for a NITEL stake was not paid into the Federation account and CNPP fears that a similar situation might occur if the NITEL bid is cancelled.

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