Thursday, January 12, 2006

Alternative approach to privatize NITEL – Odinma

LONDON-based Nigerian Telecommunications expert, Prof. Augustine Odinma, has prescribed an alternative capsule to solve the hiccups in the efforts by the federal government to privatize the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).
He said, the antidote to the current failure to sale the organization in his views is to list NITEL in the nation’s stock market and then offer some of its shares for sale to the public.
“The government can begin by selling off about 30 to 40 per cent of NITEL equity to the public,” he suggested.
Prof. Odinma was proffering solutions on the inability of Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) to privatize the corporation as planned last year and attendant ridiculous under pricing by Orascom Consortium of Egypt to the tune of $256.5 million.
This amount is below what the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) arm of NITEL, Mtel paid to get its license in 2001.
“Listing NITEL in the stock market and offering an Initial Public Offer (IPO) could achieve this,” he said, citing Telnor of Norway as a corporation, which seemingly suffered the same fate like NITEL but was eventually sold through the stock market.
Prof. Odinma also warned that the corporation should not be sold at any give away price for the sake of privatization.
He further called on the National Assembly not to allow the sale of NITEL to be anything below what the London-based Investors International Limited (IIL) bidded in year 2001, that is, $1.317 billion.
Recalling that NITEL is a national treasure, saying that posterity would not be kind to those at the helm of affairs if NITEL is sold as what is considered as scrap.
He urged the government to be ready to hands off NITEL, maintaining that engineering entities like NITEL and Power Holding Company of Nigeria also known as NEPA, should not be treated like other government agencies.
Emphasising that incessant dissolution of NITEL’S board of directors was indication that wrong people were made to serve in the board in the first place, this much government must realize now.Stressing that Telnor of Norway took the same approach by selling to the public and today, it is paying off and that there is nothing wrong replicating a good example.

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