27 November 2012

Nigeria: NCC Commissioner Removed for Exposing Fraud

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Axed Nigerian Communications Commissioner Bashir Gwandu

The lingering battle in the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) following the unravelling of spectrum fraud in the telecom regulatory agency has taken a sour turn with the Federal Government terminating the appointment of the agency's executive commissioner, Technical, Mr. Bashir Gwandu, who had exposed the fraud.

In what the government termed insubordination to the NCC board and the federal government, the letter was said to have been signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Pius Anyim.

Engr. Gwandu had exposed spectrum fraud at the NCC, which involved the former and the current executive vice chairmen of the NCC.

Sources within the NCC, who confirmed the development, revealed that the SGF's letter which conveyed Gwandu's dismissal, said that it took effect from November 9, 2012. A source at the NCC, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed the sack.

LEADERSHIP had reported the spectrum fraud and the cracks among members at the top echelon of NCC following allegations that a particular frequency spectrum was sold at a giveaway price by the current management of the commission.

Gwandu had raised allegations that corruption and illegality were being committed at the NCC over the sale of frequency spectrum. However, the source said the allegations were found to be false, hence his sacking.

According to the source, "Gwandu was sacked for insubordination. Gwandu raised some allegations that were investigated by the NCC Board and the Ministry of Communications Technology and the allegations were adjudged unfounded. This prompted the federal government to act."

Why Jonathan fired BPE boss, Onagoruwa, as Dikki takes over

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday directed the Director-General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Ms. Bolanle Onogoruwa, to vacate office immediately.

Accordingly, he ordered her to hand over to the most senior director in the Bureau, Mr. Benjamin Ezra Dikki, who will hold the position of DG of the BPE in acting capacity until further notice.

Although reasons for Onogoruwa's sack was not given by at the time of filing this report, LEADERSHIP gathered that the change of baton effected with immediate effect yesterday was not unconnected with the recommendation of her sack by the National Assembly as well as the shabby handling of the ongoing privatisation process in the power sector.

BPE sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told LEADERSHIP that the presidency was incensed with her over shoddy manner in which she handled the power privatisation process.

Our source said that the power privatisation process required the submission by the preferred bidders of bid security in the form of a letter of credit or bank guarantee for 15 per cent of the transaction value to the BPE, and that following the preferred bidders' compliance with this directive, the BPE ought to have reported to first to the vice president, Arc. Namadi Sambo, who is the chairman of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), of which BPE is the secretariat. However, Onagoruwa, probably out of excitement, bypassed normal procedure and made the announcement directly to the media.

"When the VP heard about it from the media, he was angry," our source said.

A terse statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Vice President, Alhaji Umar Sani, to this effect expressed Mr. President "sincere appreciation to Mrs. Bolanle Onogoruwa for her services to the nation and wishes her the best in her future endeavours".

The vice president is the chairman of the National Council on Privatisation, while Onogoruwa, and onetime BPE DG and businessman, Atedo Peterside, are at the helm of affairs. They had always briefed the press at the end of the council's monthly meeting.

Onagoruwa was appointed BPE boss by former President Goodluck Jonathan on August 11, 2010, after functioning in acting capacity from March 8, 2010. She had also been embroiled in a face-off with the National Assembly, which, in July this year, passed a resolution calling on President Jonathan to relieve her of the post and walked her out of their chambers.

Subsequently, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Public Petitions and Privileges refused to recognise Onagoruwa as the DG of BPE when she appeared before it to respond to some petitions written by staff of the organisation over wrongful termination of appointment.

Rather than acknowledge and allow Ms Onagoruwa react to the petitions, the chairman of the committee, Ayo Akinyelure, had told her that the Senate no longer recognised her as the substantive director-general.

Her troubles with the National Assembly started in November 2011 when the Senate ad-hoc committee that investigated the activities of the BPE between 1999 and 2011 accused her of some official misconduct and recommended her sack.

The Senate committee which investigated the privatisation of federal government's assets recommended the sack of Ms Onagoruwa for gross incompetence in the management of the bureau and also indicted her over her role in the sale of the federal government's five per cent residual shares in Eleme Petrochemical Company.

The panel had also recommended that the former directors-general, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, Dr. Julius Bala and Mrs. Irene Nkechi Chigbue, should be reprimanded by the NCP for seeking approval directly from the president rather than the NCP as stipulated in the Public Enterprises Act 1999.

At the time, the National Assembly had been miffed that its resolutions were treated with a wave of the hand by the presidency and subsequently cited this incident and other grievances as reasons to commence impeachment moves against President Goodluck Jonathan.

Senate hails Onagoruwa's sack

The Senate yesterday applauded the presidency for sacking the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Ms Bolanle Onagoruwa.

Reacting to the development, Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said that the Senate had earlier, in consideration of the Senator Lawan report on privatisation, approved its recommendation for the disengagement of the BPE boss.

The Senate, he added, therefore, saw this move as evidence of the harmonious working relationship with the executive.

However, Senator Lawan had asked the presidency to move a step further to implement the rest of the recommendation, adding that doing so would confirm its seriousness to sanitise the system.

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