LESS than 48 hours to the expiration of the deadline to pay, New Generation Consortium is yet to make the required 30% deposit representing US$750 million security on their bid of US $2.5 billion for the comatose Nigeria Telecommunications (Nitel) Plc .
Nitel is Nigeria’s pioneer national telecommunications carrier.
New Generation Consortium emerged the preferred bidder for the privatisation of Nitel and its mobile arm, M-tel.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the government agency implementing the privatisation programme, last week issued a demand letter to the consortium to make the mandatory 30% payment. The consortium was given 10 days from the date of receiving the letter to make the payment.
The payment of the bid security is a pre-condition for the issuance of an offer letter. The balance of the bid amount of US$1, 750 million must be paid within 60 days from the date of the issue of an offer letter.
The inability of the consortium to make the payment with less than 48 hours to the expiration of the deadline is said to be sending panic down the spines of the regulator and the privatisation agency.
The regulator is hoping that competition will improve in the country’s telecom sector and help drive down tariffs, while the privatisation agency wants the Nitel transaction to be brought to closure.
The sale of Nigeria’s national telecom carrier has been mired in controversy for the last nine years. The current attempt, which initially ran into troubled waters, is the fourth time since 2001 that government has tried to offload the telecom firm that once bestrode the Nigerian telecom landscape.
The National Council on Privatisation, the apex government decision making organ on privatisation matters, at its meeting last March set up an eight-member ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of the Attorney-General of the Federation to review the Nitel/M-tel sale transaction.
The Committee found that the transaction complied strictly with due process as outlined in the BPE’s Procedures Manual and that necessary approvals were obtained through the technical committee) and the NCP at every stage of the transaction.
SIMEON OGOEGBULEM in Abuja, Nigeria