Daily Trust (Abuja)

15 November 2006

Nigeria: Britons Head Nitel and Mtel

Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its mobile subsidiary, Mtel, were handed over to the new core investor, Transnational Corporation, in Abuja yesterday.

A new board of directors and management were announced, including two expatriates for the top positions of the companies.

The share purchase agreement was signed between the federal government and the corporation, after which the company took possession of the nation's premier telecommunications outfit.

Transcorp won the bid to buy the telecommunications company by offering to pay $750million for 75percent government equity in the company. The corporation has already paid $500million for 50 percent equity in the company. The outstanding $250million is scheduled to be paid at a future date.

Transnational Corporation immediately announced the constitution of a new board and management for both NITEL and Mtel, signalling a new phase in the life of the companies.

Managing Director of Transcorp, Mr. Bernard Longe, announced the two new chief executives of the sister companies namely: Mr. Steve Brookman, designated CEO of NITEL and John Weir for Mtel. The two men were seconded for both positions by Transcorp's technical partner, British Telecoms (BT). They replace Albert Mashi and Edwin Moore Momife, the outgoing chief executives of NITEL and Mtel respectively.

Also, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, the vice chairman of UBA was named as the new chairman of the board of NITEL, while Mr. Gbenga Olulade was named as the chairman of the board of Mtel.

Speaking before the companies were handed over to the new core investor, Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mrs. Irene Chigbue, said the transaction has been a very challenging one considering the nature of services provided by the companies.

She said: "Different efforts were made to sell NITEL. All of them ended in inconclusive sale. That's why we are very happy that at last, NITEL has been privatised. The handing over completes the reform process in the telecommunications sector."

Transcorp had to ask for an extension on the payment deadline because of "difficulties" they experienced getting the money, Mrs Chigbue said. Transcorp then paid within the extended time period.

The balance of 25percent shareholding is still to be paid, but they still have time, Mrs. Chigbue said.

Mrs. Chigbue explained that most of the labour issues have been resolved; pointing out that the few issues yet to be resolved would be resolved within this week. She said: "All those who are being disengaged will leave with their money. The money is being put aside and there is no need for any apprehensions whatsoever about payment of their terminal benefits."

She said the BPE was satisfied with the business plan submitted by Transcorp and the people seconded by BT to manage the two companies.

Also speaking at the occasion, chairman of Transcorp, Dr. Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, promised that the corporation was going to do everything possible to revive the ailing telecommunications giant.

She said, "We want to pledge to all Nigerians that we will work very hard to make sure it succeeds. I believe that NITEL has always been a gold mine. The only problem is that it was being run by government and government has no business in business."

She added: "For the staff of NITEL and Mtel who remain, we will treat you as private sector workers but it is no longer business as usual. You will enjoy working with Transcorp, we are focused."

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