Liquidation of the moribund Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. (Nitel) has once again bogged down in confusion after lawmakers ordered the privatization agency not to liquidate the company.
Lawmakers instead want the Nigerian government to inject funds into the company to revive its operations. But the Nigerian government wants the planned liquidation of the company to go ahead, claiming that it has no money to pump into Nitel.
The Nigerian government is liquidating Nitel and its mobile arm M-tel following several failed attempts to sell the companies over the past 10 years. The decision to liquidate the companies was made in March by the National Council on Privatization (NCP), headed by Nigerian Vice President Namadi Sambo.
The Senate Committee early this year raised some questions it wanted answered before it could accept the planned liquidation and lawmakers also want the NCP to provide it with the current value of the companies before the decision to liquidate the companies can be made.
Lawmakers have resolved to carry out an investigation into the planned sale in an effort to block the Nigerian government from selling the company's assets at low prices. The lawmakers further said they are concerned about the Nigerian government selling national assets at extremely low prices while getting kickbacks in the process.
But Bureau of Public Enterprise spokesperson Chukwumah Nwokoh said the Nigerian government is working out legal technicalities before liquidating the companies and selling the assets. "As soon as those issues are sorted out, Nitel and M-tel will be up for grabs," Nwokoh told journalists this week.
Nwokoh claims the NCP has already provided explanations to all the questions raised by the Senate Committee and will go ahead to liquidate the two companies.
Like many African governments, the Nigerian government claims it has failed to recapitalize the company and keep it operational.
Over the past decade, the Nigerian government has repeatedly failed to privatize Nitel, with various international telecom companies disqualified from the bidding process. Lawmakers have raised complaints that the bidding process itself was manipulated and that bribes were offered to BPE officials to manipulate the outcome.
Several African governments including Zambia and Ghana have faced problems in privatizing incumbent operators. Generally, corruption and lack of transparence among senior government officials have been at the root of the problems.