Director-General of BPE, Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa
By Kunle Akogun
The Senate Tuesday adopted all the 45 recommendations of its ad hoc committee that probed the activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) since 1999 to date.
Among the adopted recommendations are the removal of the Director-General of BPE, Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa, for “her gross incompetence and for the illegal and fraudulent sale of the Federal Government’s residual shares in Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited”, as well as the indictment of former heads of the Bureau, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Dr. Julius Bala and Mrs. Irene Nkechi Chigbue, for seeking approval directly from the president instead of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) as stipulated in the Public Enterprises Act, 1999.
For the failure of their respective core investors to deliver on the fundamental provision of Share Purchase Agreement/Post Acquisition Plan, the Senate also asked the NCP to rescind the sale of Abuja International Hotels Limited (NICON Luxury Hotel), Abuja; Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja; the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON); the Delta Steel Company and re-advertise the affected companies for fresh sale.
The upper chamber also called on the NCP to rescind the sale of Daily Times of Nigeria (DTN) to Folio Communications Limited in keeping with the court judgments in suit (1) FHC/L/CP/1328/2009, (2) FHC/L/CP/244/10, and (3) FHC/L/CP/130/2010.
The senators advised the Federal Government to implement the Inter-Ministerial Technical Audit Report on Ajaokuta Steel Complex dated July 2011, which recommended the completion and inauguration of the plant by the Federal Government.
Furthermore, it recommended that the BPE should discontinue the use of privatisation proceeds to settle staff terminal benefits, consultancy fees, transaction expenses and execution of capital projects.
“It should approach the National Assembly for appropriation as provided for in Section 80 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended,” said the report, directing the Bureau to close all privatisation proceed accounts in commercial banks and henceforth put all proceeds in Privatisation Proceeds Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in compliance with section 19(1) of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act 1999.
The lawmakers also recommended that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be immediately drafted to investigate the economic crimes being perpetrated against the nation at the premises of VON Automobile Nigeria Limited in Lagos by Barbedos Ventures Limited (BVI), while the taxes and import duties accruable to the Federal Government on all goods smuggled into the warehouse of VON Automobile Nigeria Limited should be computed and recovered by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) respectively.
The delay by the upper chamber to discuss the Senator Ahmad Lawan-led committee’s recommendations submitted to the plenary over a month ago had fuelled speculations of a grand plan to suppress or whittle down the report because of its far-reaching indictments of the handlers of the privatisation exercise and the call for the revocation of most of the privatised enterprises.
However, in a dramatic twist, the Senate rushed through the 45-point recommendations with unanimous “ayes” reverberating in the Red Chamber as Senate President David Mark called them point-by-point.
Speaking after the wholesale adoption of the committee’s report, Mark said: “It is not in our place or duty to execute or implement the recommendations. It is left for the executive to implement them.”
He frowned on media reports that the Senate had been trying to avoid discussing the ad hoc committee’s report, saying, “Nobody forced us to undertake this investigation, we did it on our own and nobody should make effort to stampede us.”
But the Group Managing Director of the Global Fleet Group, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, has reacted to the Senate resolution advising the Federal Government to revoke the sale of some privatised companies.
Ibrahim said he did not buy the NICON Luxury Hotel from the Senate, and that the Senate was not privy to the transaction with the Federal Government.
He declared that the Senate lacked the jurisdiction on such contractual matters, saying the probe was unfortunate as it lacked fair hearing rights and was violation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
El-Rufai’s media adviser, Mr. Muyiwa Adekeye, said there was no justification for the recommendation of reprimand for the former BPE DG.
“Recommendation 38 which asks that he be reprimanded for seeking presidential approval for privatisation issues is without basis. A careful reading of the entire 172-page report yields Annexure 38, pertaining to the privatisation of NITEL/MTEL, and that does not support the recommendation. The decision to sell NITEL to IILL was approved by the National Council for Privatisation, (NCP), chaired statutorily by the Vice-President.
“It was the same NCP that approved IILL’s request for extension of time to pay for the purchase, and the failure to meet the new deadline led to IILL forfeiting its deposit to the treasury. Nowhere in the report is any document shown alluding to the request for or the granting of presidential approval in the NITEL/IILL matter. Once again, El Rufai challenges the Senate to present any evidence to support this spurious recommendation,” the statement declared.