The federal government has ordered the probe of $252m sale of the national telecommunications carrier – Nigeria Telecommunications Company (NITEL) –, bought by NATCOM consortium, last December by the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration for.
The order for the investigation was given by the President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday during a briefing by Permanent Secretary Dr. Tunji Olaopa and other officials of the Ministry of Communications at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Olaopa said that although the President was not opposed to the sale of NITEL, he wanted to ensure that the country was not shortchanged. He said:
“The President is concerned by the quality of service of telecom operators. The President is very concerned about the whole issue of privatisation that is hindering the investments in ICT infrastructure and that he will personally champion this.
The President talked about the potentials of the ICT sector in generating employment.
The President is concerned about the liquidation of NITEL. He is not opposed to its privatisation but he wants to know and he wants us to bring a memo on how the whole transaction was undertaken so that he would know whether Nigeria was shortchanged or not.”
According to him, President Buhari also directed the ministry to bring forward for his consideration and approval, all pending proposals for the development of the IT sector, which require the approval of the Federal Executive Council.
A statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted the president as saying: “Where you don’t need EXCO approval and you are not in breach of the law and will not lose money, you can go ahead.
“Now that oil costs less and we are contending with its theft, we have to move to areas where we can realise revenue quickly.”
The President welcomed the plan by the ministry to use post-offices across the country for IT and financial transactions, especially in the rural communities, saying that he was happy to hear that “we are recovering the post offices from rats and rodents”.
“He also asked for a comprehensive report on the sale of the Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL), saying that he was concerned by the continuing protests of former NITEL employees and other Nigerians over the manner in which assets of the company were sold.”
The ministry’s presentation to the President dwelled on the potential of the IT sector which, Dr. Olaopa said, accounts for 10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but could grow to 20 per cent if some proposals by the Ministry are approved and implemented.
Also yesterday, the Ministry of Housing briefed the President on its activities.
The Federal Government promised to give more attention to the Northeast in housing. The area has been adversely affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
President Buhari gave the assurance while receiving briefings from officials of the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, led by its Permanent Secretary, George Ossi.
Ossi told reporters after the meeting that that Buhari’s main interest is to ensure that Nigerians, especially those within the lowest income bracket, affordable houses.
He said that the ministry’s policy drive in the provision of housing in the country was in line with the President’s mandate on housing for low income earners.
According to him, inadequate funding is one of the Ministry’s challenges.