Nitel 'guided liquidation' too late


Image: Titi Omo-Ettu, president of ATCON. By BiztechAfrica
Titi Omo-Ettu, president of ATCON

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

The Federal Government of Nigeria's decision to toe the line of 'guided liquidation' of former state-run but now moribund telco, Nigeria Telecommunication Limited or Nitel and its mobile, arm, Mtel, has been described as wise decision that is coming a little too late.

Efforts by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the body charged with taking the government's interest in Nitel to the hammer have repeatedly ended in failure, making it appear that Nitel has been jinxed.

Reacting to the latest move by the government, telecoms operators in the country acting under the aegis of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), say that if guided liquidation will ensure that Nitel would be rested while efforts would be made to recoup whatever could from the firm, it is a welcome development.

Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu, president of ATCON, explained that the only advice he has for the people charged with implementing the guided liquidation is that they should remember that the moribund telco still has the licence of first national operator.

He says: “If by ‘guided liquidation’ [the government means] a process of resting the corporate name called NITEL and doing our best to recoup whatever we can from the whole project called NITEL, I think there is really no other choice than to do just that, except that it is coming three years late. It may then mean that my position in 2009 synchs with what has now been announced as reported in newspapers.

“The only contribution I have now is to advise whoever is implementing the guided liquidation that the company they are liquidating is still in custody of our First National Operator’s License. And that fact should guide them in guiding the liquidation,” Omo-Ettu said in a statement in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial hub.

According to the ATCON chief, media questions directed at him after the government’s decision had all taken the same tack: “What do you think of this?”

He says: “Honestly, I do not know because it seems to me that ‘guided liquidation’ or any liquidation at all, is a technical matter and I am not versed in the subject so I do not want to let that vocabulary stow into my thought process.

“I have since 2009 switched off all thoughts about Nitel when I considered that the final end had come came for the company. I went into the exercise of valuating the license that Nitel was holding and came up with a figure which hovered around USD2.2 billion. I did not keep it to myself. I called a press conference and explained the explainable part of the valuation and how it would guide us in knowing what the country stood to gain, or lose, if such estimation was required to guide a decision.”

“Since then I switched off in spite of the fact that newspaper journalists would not allow me to take my mind off the subject. Understandably so.”

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