Vanguard (Lagos)

26 March 2014

Nigeria: FG Moves to Privatise Refineries

Abuja — The Federal Government appears set to privatise the nation's four refineries in Port-Hacourt, Warri and Kaduna.

Mr. Ben Dikki, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, announced this at a briefing in Abuja, yesterday.

He said however, that his team would first secure the cooperation of labour leaders, especially in the oil industry before taking concrete steps in that regard.

His words, "it should be noted that the labour unions have expressed their willingness to dialogue with government to develop appropriate business models for the refineries. This will be followed up and should lead to the commencement of the privatization process in 2014.

"The steering committee is expected to commence work soon and develop an appropriate framework for privatization that is acceptable to all stakeholders.

"The labour leaders have said that they are not averse to the privatization of the refineries. What they want is that they should be included in determining the direction and the processes of the privatisation.

"What we want from them now is to give government the assurance that they are willing to proceed with the privatization. Once we have their assurances after due consultations with their members and they revert back to government that they have no objection to privatiSation of the refineries, we shall commence the process, after reporting such a commitment of labour to Mr. President and Mr. Vice president.

"I repeat, we want the commitment from labour that they are pro-privatisation and government is willing to include them in the steering committee so that we can jointly work together in fashioning out the appropriate modalities in dealing with the refineries.

"Once we receive such assurances from the two labour unions, we shall revert back to Mr. President to seek his approval to go ahead with the privatization of the refineries.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had sold off some of the refineries to Blue Circle at the end of his eight-year government in 2007 but late President Umaru Yar'Adua reversed the transactions and returned investors funds to them.

Mr. Dikki also disclosed that the federal government has secured a court approval to undertake a guided-liquidation of Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL and its subsidiary, MTEL.

According to him, Otunba Olutola Senbore has been appointed as the liquidator.

The wisdom in the guided-liquidation, according to the D-G was to free the federal government of any further liabilities that might be left uncovered after the proceed from the liquidation would have been expended on settling debts owed by the two organizations.

Mr Dikki disclosed that NITEL/MTEL liabilities were in excess of N250 billion and that it was difficult to say that the sales of its assets could yield as much.

According to him, all "active staff of the two organizations were fully paid from the proceeds of their assets already sold.

He noted that even the casual workers had been fully paid their entitlements but that some people later emerged claiming that they were paid as much as their entitlements should be or that their names were omitted and that group had gone to court over the matter.

The D-G who revealed that gross transactions revenue in 2013 stood at N397.7 billion said that his team was targeting N535.3 billion from various transactions this year.

He stated that eight reforms Bills were before the Federal Executive Council and that when passed by the National Assembly, would change the face of business in many sectors of the economy.

The Bills he said were: Railway Bill, which would break government monopoly and allow private investors to build and operate rail lines; Inland Water Ways Bills; Federal Roads Authority Bill; National Road Fund Bill; National Transport Commission; Ports & Harbour Bill; Postal Reform Bill; and Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Bill.

Specifically, Mr. Dikki said that the Roads Bill would make it easier for private investors to participate in running roads across the country and that Nigerians would enjoy well-maintained roads.

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