28 November 2012

Nigeria: Why Jonathan Fired BPE Boss

Ms. Bolanle Onagoruwa got the sack yesterday as BPE director general mainly because of her role in the controversy over the Manitoba power transmission contract, Daily Trust learnt in Abuja yesterday.

A source in the Presidency told our reporter last night that among the "many sins" of the sacked Bureau of Public Enterprises boss was "her arbitrary manner of signing deals on behalf of the government without proper consultation and directives."

The Presidency issued a statement yesterday announcing her removal without giving any specific reason.

"Onogoruwa has been relieved of her appointment with immediate effect," a statement by Vice President Namadi Sambo's spokesman Umar Sani said.

"She is to hand over to the most senior director in the bureau, Mr. Benjamin Ezra Dikki, who is to hold the position in an acting capacity.

"Mr. President extends his sincere appreciation to Ms. Bolanle Onogoruwa for her services to the nation and wishes her the best in her future endeavours."

A senior government official told Daily Trust that Ms. Onagoruwa was fired because she worked against the Presidency's initial attempt to revoke the Manitoba contract. The source said another reason that contributed to her fall is the sale of Federal Government's shares in the Eleme Petrochemical company which a Senate investigation said was fraudulent.

"These two deals were handled in a manner that angered the government particularly as the lady almost carried out the deals without proper directives from the government. The decisions sometimes embarrassed the government as it was made to reverse itself on some of the issues," the source said.

Another source close to the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) told Daily Trust that some "officials who wanted Manitoba stripped of the TCN management contract were angered with the support Onagoruwa extended to Manitoba team by supplying them vital documents with which they nailed the Federal Government during the contract cancellation saga."

In July, BPE okayed the power management contract signed with Canada's Manitoba Hydro Electric Board to run the state-owned power utility Transmission Company of Nigeria after regulatory approval.

Then on November 14, President Jonathan's spokesman Reuben Abati was quoted to have said the contract had been cancelled.

But Jonathan on November 18 said the deal was not cancelled though it had issues which were being ironed out.

According to another source, Ms. Onagoruwa's removal might have links with President Jonathan's effort to ingratiate himself with the Senate which had long asked him to fire her over the Eleme company deal.

She was accused by the Senate since last year of "gross incompetence in the management of the BPE" as well as the "illegal and fraudulent sale of the five per cent Federal Government's shares in the Eleme Petrochemical Company Limited, EPCL."

Earlier in the year, a Senate committee walked Onagoruwa out of a hearing session, saying they will never deal with her again because of the resolution calling for her removal.

Another BPE source said the former DG might also have been caught up in the cold war between Jonathan and former President Obasanjo. "You know she came to the BPE through Obasanjo, and you what is happening between them now. This may be another reason," the source said.

At the BPE yesterday, there were mixed feelings about the removal of the DG. An official said the new acting director general Benjamin Dikki has just sent his notification letter of retirement, but Daily Trust could not confirm this last night. When contacted, BPE spokesman Chukwumah Nwokoh said he had no comment to make on Onagoruwa's removal.

Asked if Dikki had assumed duty, Nwokoh simply replied: "What did the statement (from Presidency) tell you people? Please, I have no comment."

'Senate has been vindicated'

In his reaction, chairman of the Senate ad hoc committee that probed the privatisation programme and recommended the DG's sack, Senator Ahmed Lawan, said the Senate has been vindicated.

"We passed our resolution in December 2011 asking the government to remove Bolanle Onagoruwa because of the shady things she did, and the government is just acting now, I don't think that is a serious way of treating a resolution passed by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria," he said.

"Remember that about two months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that ALSCON was not properly acquired by Rusal through BPE. This was also in total agreement with our resolution.

"But if the government sacked the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises because they now believe in the recommendation of our committee on privatisation and the resolution of the Senate, then it means we have been justified. The executive must always treat our resolutions with seriousness. We don't just pass resolutions, we are always careful in passing resolutions because they are necessary."

'A step in right direction'

The House of Representatives also described the sack of Onagoruwa as a step in the right direction.

Speaking to Daily Trust yesterday, Deputy House Leader Rep. Leo Ogor (PDP, Delta) said time has come for "collaborative governance" between the executive and the legislature.

"Our findings are important to the government as they will enhance governance. It is a step in the right direction because the parliament exists to check and expose corruption and wastages and anywhere we discover it we will not hesitate to recommend removal of those involved. It is a lesson for those people who are taking government for granted." On the resolution of the House urging for the sack of Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Ms. Arunma Oteh, Rep. Ogor said: "I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt the President will implement our report to the latter."

The woman, Ms. Onagoruwa

Ms. Bolanle Ayodele Onagoruwa, a lawyer, administrator and technocrat, was appointed as Director General of BPE on August 11, 2010 by President Jonathan.

Onagoruwa joined the BPE in 2000 as a Deputy Director (Legal Services) and was promoted Director (Oil & Gas) in 2002. She had traversed various departments and sectors as director and transaction expert before she became Acting Director General of BPE on March 8, 2010. In 2010, she continued with the now botched privatisation of moribund Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) started by her predecessors. Onagoruwa, like her predecessors, did not succeed in selling NITEL.

But if the process is concluded, she will take the credit for successfully putting up Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) for sale.

Since President Jonathan inaugurated the new power roadmap, which is a comprehensive plan aimed at restructuring the power sector and achieve stable electricity in the country, in August 2010, the BPE under her had been following the timeline religiously until the preferred bidders emerged weeks ago. Under her, the BPE also sold five per cent shares of the Eleme Petro-chemical in 2010 to Indorama of India in controversial circumstances.

Also, she saw to the take-over of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) by Manitoba in September this year.

Zakariyya Adaramola, Nuruddeen M. Abdallah, Isiaka Wakili and Turaki A. Hassan

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