Cole: Wike’s Termination of Sale of State-owned

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Power Plants Political, Sad

The gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Tonye Cole, has described last week’s termination of the sale of valued assets of Rivers State to companies linked to him as political and sad for the development of the state.

Cole said the Minister of Transportation and former Governor of the state, Chibuike Amaechi, under whose tenure he acquired those assets, is not his business partner as bandied by the Governor Nyesom Wike.

But the state Government has also fired back asking Cole to search his conscience and challenge the decision in court if he feels aggrieved.

The Rivers State Government last week announced the termination of the share sale contract for the sale of 70-per cent equity of the state Government-owned power generation assets held by First Independent Power Limited in Omoku, Afam, Trans-Amadi and Eleme Gas Turbines to NG Power-HPS Limited.

The government also terminated the concession of the Rivers and Bayelsa State-owned Olympia Hotel to Cenpropsaroten Hotel Management Limited.

It further terminated the concession agreement between the government of Rivers State and Kild concession Limited in respect of the construction of a toll road and secondary developments in Abonnema Wharf, Port Harcourt.

The three companies are subsidiaries of Sahara Energy Limited, said to be owned by the APC gubernatorial candidate, Tonye Cole, and allegedly used by Amaechi, to acquire state assets.

But addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, Cole explained that contrary to belief in some quarters, he was not the sole owner of the companies involved in the purchase of the state assets and maintained that the companies have kept to the rules of good corporate governance in all its transactions.

He explained: “I set up a company of three individuals. I don’t own the company. There were three key partners that set it up. I own a third of that company. In the 23 years we ran that company, we added at least four more partners who came in at different stages that took equity.

“They are not Rivers people. They are from all over Nigeria in different shades and forms. We employed people across board, in Nigeria, Singapore, Geneva, people from all nationalities. Total staff strength within Nigeria when I left was more than
3,300.

“So it’s not a small company, neither is it a one-man company. It follows all the tenets of law, sits on international bodies, United Nations, Partnership against Corruption Initiative. It’s at the World Economic Forum, different international organisations.

“One of the cardinal points of such is that the company must have integrity and must stand on the rule of law. There is nothing we did, nothing we have done that has not gone under scrutiny that was not checked.”

Cole, who said he was not worried about the termination of the sales, stated that his companies have passed through several scrutiny in the country, including fuel subsidy and had never been indicted.

He insisted: “What happened a few days ago, smacks of politics, all politics left right and centre and it is sad. The white man says you don’t cut your nose to spite your face.

He however, said he had left the company since he joined politics and would allow the company react as it deemed
fit.

“I personally, understanding exactly what it means to follow governance and corporate governance, which I do and have taught it, on the day I decided I was joining this politics, I withdrew myself, signed necessary documents, removed myself from Sahara, removed all my shares, signed off everything and left.

“I left Sahara on September 1, completely. I don’t take any decision or do anything with the company. I left. And I left; so, even though people were saying that in Nigeria, you don’t need to, but I said no. I left completely because it is a totally different entity.

“Frankly, it is not my fight. I am focused on politics; they would have to focus on it the way every business would focus when their rights are infringed. They would have to deal with it.”

He however, said the decision of the state government to terminate the sales was wrong signal to the business community on the safety of their investments in the state.

He also stated that Amaechi was not his business partner as speculated, adding that he had survives 23 years in business because he had not focused on political patronage.

But in its reaction, Rivers State Government advised Cole to stop sermonising about the tainted sale of high value-state assets to his companies but should search his conscience well about the sales to companies linked to him by the previous administration headed by his friend and business partner.

Faulting comments by Cole that his companies properly purchased the assets, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, said the claim was coming late in the day because the State Executive Council which approved the implementation of the white paper is not a court and not equipped or authorised to carry out judicial functions.

“At the level of implementation of the recommendations of the judicial commission of inquiry accepted through the white paper, the duty of the State Executive is to obey the law and implement the stipulations as contained in the white paper and nothing more” Okah said, noting that the courts are open to anyone who feels otherwise.