By Ndubuisi Francis
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has debunked reports that it diverted N14 billion sales proceeds of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) into private banks.
The privatisation agency said the question of diversion did not arise as all the proceeds were paid into the Privatisation Proceed Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The bureau, in a statement, said: “The truth of the matter is that the BPE did not and has not diverted proceeds of the PHCN privatisation as all the proceeds were paid into the Privatisation Proceed Account domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“It must be noted that these proceeds were used to settle the severance benefits of staff of the defunct PHCN as agreed by the federal government and labour. If then, the funds were diverted, how could this feat have been achieved?”
The BPE, in the statement signed by its Head, Public Affairs, Amina Tukur Othman, said it was constrained to put the records straight given the deliberate and constant disinformation on the proceeds from the privatisation of the PHCN, which was carried out in 2013.
The agency added that much as it would not want to question the opinion of individuals/media “on national issues, nay our privatisation processes, we wish to reiterate that our processes are transparent and in accordance with international best practices.
“That is why the power sector privatisation, in particular, undertaken by BPE has been commended by local players and the international community. ”
Recalling several negative reports on the sale to discredit it, the BPE noted: “First, it was a report which appeared in several newspapers recently with the headline: AuGF Report Reveals How BPE Officials Diverted N2.5bn PHCN Proceeds to Buy Properties in Aso Savings, which we gave a detailed explanation on what transpired, including among others, the approval obtained by the BPE on 25th February, 2014, from the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to establish a banking relationship with Aso Savings and Loans Plc.
“Thus, the BPE subsequently, made a placement in the sum of N2.5 billion in the account to facilitate access to cheap finance for the bureau’s staff housing scheme but the staff were not able to access the money.”
The agency added that following the federal government’s directive on September 14, 2015 that all funds held with commercial banks be transferred to the bureau’s Treasury Single Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, it was discovered that Aso Savings & Loans Plc could not meet its deposit repayment obligations.
As a result, it noted that on October 18, 2016, Aso Savings and Loans Plc proposed a repayment plan, including property swap valued at N1.52 billion, an arrangement which allowed ownership of some completed properties that are ready for sale to be ceded to the bureau in partial satisfaction of the stranded deposits.
The BPE said there was also a cash repayment of N1.25 billion, which entailed a bullet transfer of N70 million per month by Aso Sagings until the amount was extinguished.
“Despite the arrangement, Aso Savings and Loans Plc. defaulted in meeting its obligations under the agreement. As a result, the bureau has made several demands to ASL which has remained elusive till date.
“Not done with casting the image of the bureau in bad light, our detractors who obviously are on a smear campaign have sponsored yet another story on the power proceeds,’” the statement added.
The BPE called on stakeholders and the general public to discountenance the smear reports against it “as we are prepared to, at all times, as a responsible parastatal of the federal government, charged with reforms, privatisation, concession and commercialisation, to carry out our mandate responsibly and with integrity.”