BPE Privatisation: Gory Details of Bribery

Obasanjo ordered us to ignore Atiku –ex BPE DG
Why ex-president should be summoned –Falana World Bank report indicted el-Rufai
More dirty details emerged yesterday as the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee investigating the privatization process heard that the rift between the former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his deputy, Vice President Atiku Abubakar adversely affected the process.
As Obasanjo’s name came up, human right activist, Femi Falana yesterday urged the Senate Ad-Hoc committee to summon former President Obasanjo to come and defend himself on the allegations made against him.
The former Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mrs. Irene Chigbue told the committee that the conflict got to a point where the office of the supervising National Council on Privatization under former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was treated as irrelevant.
According to her, former President Obasanjo directed her to avoid the NCP and pass all issues on Privatization through the office of the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman.
She said: “There was a political lacuna between offices of the President and the Vice President.”
“The President in his wisdom said we should be relating with the then Finance Minister, who is now a senator.”
“Because of that, we were getting approval directly from the President.”
She said that in the situation many bidders were replaced with other companies entirely outside the bidding process.
The current Director General of BPE, Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa agreed with the position of the former DG stressing that there was a time letters were sent to the President and Vice President simultaneously.
According to her, the Bureau decided to do that because of the political situation in the country at the time.
Falana,  who spoke before the committee ended its six – day public hearing yesterday,  said that it should not give the impression that  certain persons were being protected.
He said: “I want to appeal to you; there are people that have been mentioned here like President Obasanjo. He was in Switzerland two months ago and he told the whole world that Nigeria is not fighting corruption again.”
“Please pursuant to your power under the constitution you can summon anybody and I appeal to you to summon President Obasanjo who has been accused repeatedly of violating the law and due process to give away these assets at below their actual value and I want you to take this very seriously.”
“Other people that have been mentioned must also be brought here otherwise your committee will be accused of covering up certain people and I know with the way you have conducted this proceedings you meant well for Nigeria.”
Falana continued: “ALSCON valued at 3.2 billion dollars was sold for 130 million dollars. What we lost in that transaction alone is N473 billion. You pay Russians to come and fix Ajaokuta, it is not possible because you want to compete with them. You said we should stop public monopoly but we now have bastardized private monopoly. We are currently nationalizing our banks because these so called private investors destroy those banks and destroy families in Nigeria and if we are not careful this economy will be totally grounded.”
“With privatization, we have violated the constitution of Nigeria. This is all about foreigners and these foreigners were brought to destroy Nigeria. These Indians came to Nigeria with their briefcases and they went to our banks to take loans and use our assets as collateral. I have not seen anything like that before. In other countries where there has been privatization you bring in capital to refuel the economy but that is not what they do here.”
“Since we started privatization in 1988, we have always been looking for these foreign people to come and take over Nigeria.  There are assets of Nigeria that are not listed for privatization that have been privatized, among them are the 1004 quarters in Lagos. I urge you to revoke all these illegal sales, nationalize them and get good people to run them.”
Also the former Director General of BPE, Julius Bala told the committee yesterday how the World Bank’s mid-term report indicted the former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai who served in the Bureau from 1999 to 2003.
The report which was presented to the committee by Bala on the privatization exercise states, “There was no proper internal audit arrangement for the project, a manual financial system is currently being used, there were major lapses in the retirement of advances, charges made by the project commercial bankers are deemed excessive and inconsistent, interest have not been credited on special account balance expenses were incurred before no-objection was sought from the bank.”
“The most important Public Enterprises, in terms of economic and social impact, have not yet been divested. Moreover, the bank expressed serious concern about inadequate transparency income transaction (e.g NITEL), and failure to comply with FGN’s privatization procedures in a consistent fashion.
“In addition fiduciary oversight and accountability of the Privatization Proceeds Accounts(PPA) have been inadequate to date, and  audit of these accounts are overdue.”
The committee yesterday suspended the hearing for the next two weeks to analyze all the information and documents it has received.
‘I collected bribe from Adenuga for El-Rufai’
The Senate Ad hoc Committee on Privatisation was on Saturday treated to a drama when a former Deputy Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mr. Charles Osuji, said he collected a bribe from Globalcom Chairman, Mike Adenuga for Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, after the sale of National Oil.
Osuji, who brazenly admitted going to Adenuga on behalf of El-Rufai even when the transactions on the sale of National Oil had been concluded, said he acted on the directive of El-Rufai.
He also said that when he brought the money to El-Rufai, he refused to collect it because, “Adenuga brought the money in bits and so it was incomplete.”
According to Osuji, El-Rufai eventually ordered his dismissal from the BPE
Although he did not disclose the amount that was given to him as bribe for El-Rufai, Osuji explained that he could not deliver the entire bribe sum because the money was given to him in bits.
But El-Rufai in his reaction, told journalists that Osuji first brought a N25m Zenith Bank cheque to him.
He said after he ordered Osuji to return the money to Adenuga, who had already acquired National Oil, Osuji subsequently returned with $100,000 cash which he did not accept.
El-Rufai, “I reported the matter to the Vice President who was the Chairman of the NCP, and he and the then Attorney General, Bola Ige requested that Osuji be prosecuted.”
The former FCT minister said Osuji could not be prosecuted because Ige died shortly after that, but the NCP directed that he should be dismissed.
Chairman of the committee, Ahmed Lawan and members of the committee were shocked to hear the story and they said Osuji should have been arrested and prosecuted for his actions.
Lawan said, “This is sad. A deputy director collected money for BPE, if this is happening in BPE, it is additional misery for Nigeria. He should have been arrested and prosecuted.”
World Bank indicted El-Rufai — ex BPE boss
A former Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Dr. Julius Bala, has asserted that the privatisation process lacked transparency and accountability between 1999 and 2003.
Speaking at the Senate’s public hearing on privatisation, Bala, who took over from Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, at the BPE, relied on a World Bank midterm report of 2003, which reviewed the privatisation process from inception.
He said before he took over at the BPE, there was a serious lull on the privatisation process and the World Bank had threatened to withdraw its funding of the privatisation process as a result of the situation.
Citing the World Bank report, Bala said that BPE under el-Rufai flouted the rules and failed to follow due process, even as financial expenditures were not poorly accounted for.
The report as submitted to the committee, read, “ There is no proper internal audit arrangement for the projects; a manual financial system is currently being used; there were major lapses in the retirement of advances; charges made by the project commercial bankers are deemed excessive and inconsistent; interest have not been credited on special account balance; expenses that date back to late 2001 and 2002 were submitted in 2003; expenses are incurred before no-objection was sought from the Bank.
“The most important public enterprises in terms of economic and social impact have not yet been divested. Moreover the bank expressed serious concern about inadequate transparency in some transactions, (e.g NITEL), and failure to comply with the Federal Government’s privatisation procedures in a consistent fashion.”
Bala added that, “In addition, fiduciary oversight and accountability of the privatisation proceeds account have been inadequate to date. The audit of this account has been long overdue. This was the assessment of the World Bank of the privatisation that took place from 1999 to 2003 when I took over.”
He said after a year after he took over, the World Bank released another report which indicated that BPE had refocused and was on track to achieve the privatisation goals.
During his presentation on Thursday, El-Rufai had blamed the appointment of his successor, which he did not name, for the derailment of the privatisation process.
He told the committee that before he left, he made a recommendation on who should succeed him as DG of the BPE, but former President Olusegun Obasanjo, instead appointed a person whom the BPE had investigated over corruption.
Bala however could not account for his role in granting approval for the sale of some of the assets of Daily Times by Folio Communications, promising to return with details after taking another look at the files.
But he gave details of how BFIG won the bid for ALSCON but was denied the rights to own it because of a security report from the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Meanwhile, former Aviation Minister, Ambassador Kema Chikwe, took time to reply El-Rufai over the sale of Nigeria Airways and said the former FCT Minister frustrated its turn around.
She said El-Rufai was merely venting his political frustration on her, as he only wanted the decay of the airways before it was sold.
According to Chikwe, El-Rufai frustrated every effort to turn around the airways by some foreign companies.
She said, “El-Rufai frustrated the offer of AFREXIM Bank to inject $30m into Nigeria Airways and turn it around. The AFREXIM Chief Executive then was a Nigerian and the venue of the meeting held with him was the Presidency. Lufthansa Engineering was also to turn around Nigeria Airways but El-Rufai refused every attempt to turn around Nigeria Airways.”
Investigate Obasanjo — Falana
Lagos lawyer Mr. Femi Falana, has asked the Senate to summon former President Olusegun Obasanjo to appear before it to explain his role in the privatisation programme during his eight-year administration.
Making a presentation before the Senate’s Ad hoc Committee on Privatisation, Falana said the sale of public enterprises was a looting of the country and a breach of the constitution.
He also called for the prosecution of all the Directors General of BPE for the manner in which they sold the public enterprises.
He said, “I want to appeal to the Senate to summon former President Obasanjo and other people who have been mentioned during this public hearing to explain their roles in the privatisation process, otherwise this committee will be accused of cover up.
“When he was military Head of State, he nationalised the companies. There is no country in the world that has engaged in total privatisation. How can you construct an industry for N480bn and seel that asset for less than N10bn?”