August 12, 2011 – El Rufai: Obasanjo appointed a cranky head for Bureau of Public Enterprises
The former Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Nasir El Rufai, has blamed Nigeria’s privatisation woes on his being replaced by a “cranky” successor, who was named by former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
At a dramatic appearance at ongoing senate hearings on sales of national enterprises on Thursday, El Rufai, the pioneer head of the BPE, said Obasanjo ignored his recommendations on a new DG but appointed a “cranky businessman”, who lacked the understanding of privatisation, and was a former staff of the bureau investigated for fraud.
El Rufai did not name the official. But Julius Bala succeeded him as the head of BPE after El Rufai took a ministerial role in charge of the Federal Capital Territory in 2003.
“I wrote a memo to President Obasanjo through the vice president that my successor should come from within the BPE because we had trained professionals whom we spent millions to train,” he said.
“I recommended three directors and incase he found them old, I added three deputy directors because I knew their individual capabilities. But he appointed a person that was literally fired by the BPE; the only staff that was investigated for corruption ended up being the new DG.”
Meanwhile the senate ad hoc committee, headed by Ahmad Lawan, has issued a warrant of arrest on the Chairman of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Funsho Lawal, over his refusal to appear before the committee.
On Thursday, more allegations and counter allegations of misappropriation of privatisation proceeds, undue sales and undervaluing of key national assets, emerged.
Lawmakers heard how the Lagos Trade Fair Complex was concessioned in a questionable deal that has for years pitched the Ministry of Commerce against the BPE.
“The whole process of privatisation in Nigeria is a misnomer,” said Danlami Hamza, former member of the House of Representatives who attended the session. “It is more like a drunken Father Christmas giving away the properties of Nigeria.”
But in his testimony, El Rufai disputed that the privatisation process has failed in Nigeria, rather consistently faulting the administrators of the dream since he left office, and mounting political interference.
He said the idea, which he had been privy to since 1998, evolved to primarily scale down government funding of moribund companies which had cost the nation 256 billion naira annually as of 1998 when the annual budget was N300 billion.
“You sell 100 companies, some may not do well; but to blame privatisation is being economical with the truth,” he said. “The phones we have today are as a result of privatisation. The senate is supposed to thank the BPE.”
El Rufai said he faced and defeated political influence from Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who repeatedly attempted to sway the outcome of bidding processes.
He said he was “always quarrelling” with Obasanjo over decisions, and blamed the former president for the failure of defunct Nigerian Airways. He said former Aviation Minister, Kema Chikwe, fed Obasanjo with “stories” about the national carrier, resulting in the death of the company.
Anosike defends Daily Times purchase
Earlier in the day at the same hearing, the core investor for the Daily Times of Nigeria, Folio Communication Ltd, represented by Fidelis Anosike, disputed claims that DSV Limited has paid for the 96.05 per cent federal government shares in the company.
Anosike said that Senator Ikechukwu Obiorah, owner of DSV Ltd, has consistently tried to frustrate the management of the nation’s foremost news organisation. DSV Ltd is an investment partner of Folio, but was not involved in the technical bid for DTN in 2004.
“I have been totally criminalised by these scavengers just because they believe I am small and this country belongs to them,” said Anosike.
According to him, the firm was forced to stop publication in 2009 when the senator impounded four ultra modern printing plants that were imported to turnaround the fortunes of DTN.
He pointed out that the firm has been determined to grow despite all the obstacles placed in its path by DSV and produced documents to back his position. (Daily times)