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Contentious NITEL acquisition challenged in court

05 December 2014, 07:57Augustine Osayande

Abuja - An indigenous company, Arabian Amlak for Investment Limited (AAIL), has challenged the sale of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTEL) at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Retired General Abdullahi Bagudu Mamman, leads the court challenge.

In a motion for an Order of Interlocutory Injunction, AAIL and others are asking the court to restrain stakeholders and Otunba Olutola Sembore from sourcing for buyers, accepting offers for purchase or payment for the assets, shares or business of the NITEL/MTEL and from taking further steps in the liquidation process of NITEL/MTEL.

The company challenged the seeming government preference for comparatively far less than $919,9 million offered by the willing buyer.

This process is one after a series of failed processes to sell off NITEL/MTEL by the government of Nigeria.

Investigations by this publication show that AAIL expressed interest to buy NITEL/MTEL after the first bidding and liquidation, which started since 2009 failed due to the poor payment schedule handed different organisations that expressed interest in the process.

The company was pre-qualified and given a letter of acknowledgement by Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).

In the letter titled: Re: Expression of Interest for the Acquisition of NITEL, dated November 16, 2011, and signed by Allwell Ibeh, Director of Information and Communication, and addressed to Muazu Domiha Omolori, Chief Executive Officer of AAIL, BPE promised to contact the company “as soon as appropriate to discuss” the proposal.

Also Read: Security firm enters deal with Indian provider

In the light of this process, AAIL had made an offer of $919,999,999.00, which was above the benchmark value for the process dated 5th March, 2012. The offer was based on BNP Paribas, French Bank (2009) valuation of $850million. Therefore AAIL was invited by the Chairman, National Council On Privatisation (NCP), Vice President Namadi Sambo, for a meeting at which AAIL was verbally asked to present a Proof of Funds, and also transfer the offered amount ($919,999,999) to an escrow account within two weeks.

Considering the government verbal request for Proof of funds, which was made available, and the transfer of the offered funds, AAIL posited that it should be given a formal letter to the effect, which would necessitate their instructions to their financiers, also based on the fact that no international financier would agree to move funds without documented directive. Ever since the verbal request by the government for the funds transfer and the expressed position of AAIL, government has remained adamant to the process, in spite of a series of letters and reminders to the government.

Surprisingly long after, AAIL has found out that government has obviously abandoned midway the second option of willing buyer/willing seller, and rather chose to embark on the third option of liquidation without recourse to due process. Even more surprising is the fact that government is considering comparatively far less value for the sale of the assets under its “guided Liquidation”.

In view of the seeming government abuse of due process, blunt negation of the option of right of first refusal and lack of further interest in the process, AAIL is in the Federal High Court challenging in suit no: FHC/Abj/CS/937/2014 government and its agents’ decision to embark on the third option, which is liquidation.

Meanwhile, in a bid to perhaps evade court process and for any other reasons whatsoever, government has decided to fast track the process of liquidation by moving backward the earlier fixed date from December 11 to December 3.

In this hurriedly-executed liquidation, a telecommunication consortium, NATCOM has emerged the preferred bidder with an offer of $252,251 million under a guided liquidation.

- CAJ News


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