A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to use his leadership position to revisit and refer the allegations of corruption and abuse of process in the privatisation of public enterprises in Nigeria between 1999-2011 to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for anyone suspected to be involved to face prosecution.
The organisation urged Buhari to reform the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to remove opportunities for corruption in privatisation process, and to instruct the EFCC and ICPC to ensure the recovery of proceeds of corruption.
It gave the president 14 days to take steps, failing which it said it would not hesitate to institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest.
In the letter dated December 1, 2017 and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said: “SERAP has obtained and carefully read the full report of the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Investigation of the Privatisation and Commercialisation activities of the BPE from 1999 to 2011, which contains damaging allegations of corruption, presidential interference, and abuse of due process in the selection of core investor, valuation of public enterprises, pricing of shares/assets, determination of workers terminal benefits, and use of proceeds of privatisation.”
According to the organisation, “Many cases of presidential directives/interference during the period under review (1999-2011) affected the process of core investor selection. The BPE was negligent and ineffective in monitoring of privatised companies. In some cases, BPE never monitored the companies for the entire lock-in period and in other cases their reports were complete opposite of what was on the ground.”
The letter copied to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is also the chair of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), read in part: “It is in the public interest that any sales of public assets will get the best value but the Senate report shows exactly the opposite. By revisiting the privatisation process and referring the allegations of corruption documented in the report to the EFCC and ICPC, your government would be demonstrating that it’s willing and able to fight impunity of perpetrators of corruption, which is responsible for legacy of grand corruption and abuse of office in the country.
“Specifically, the committee among others found that: A total sum of N301bn was realised as proceeds of privatisation from 1999 to 2011. N900m of that was used as loan to Nigeria Re-insurance Plc for recapitalisation, in violation of section 19(2) of the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act 1999. Folio Communications Limited pledged the assets of Daily Times Nigeria Plc to obtain loan from bank(s) and utilized the loan to pay for the share of the company.”