Editorial

ATIKU’S INSATIABLE LIBIDO FOR THE PRIVATIZATION OF NATIONAL ASSETS

On 5th December, 2022, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji AtikuAbubakar declared once again his intention to privatize Nigeria’s national assets, if Nigerians hire him to be their president. 

While speaking at the party’s Lagos Presidential campaign rally, he penciled down some Government assets for privatization including the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna refineries, in order to generate funds for development. 

Although Atiku’s plan sounds wonderful, political affairs analysts and other concerned stakeholders have picked holes in it for two reasons namely its dubiety and its fallacy.

Dubiety?  No Nigerian, not even those in his Presidential Campaign Council believe that Atiku’s prescription of privatization of Nigeria’s remaining, yet to be cannibalized national assets, as a means of funding infrastructural development was born out of patriotism.  In fact, his running mate, Governor IfeanyiOkowa of Delta State would be guilty of perjury, if under cross examination in a court of law he feigns ignorance of his principal’s odorous antecedent and vested interest in privatization, having served as amember of the 2011 Senate Adhoc Committee, that investigated the scandalous privatization of national assets under Obasanjo’s Presidency which Atikusuperintended over as Chairman of the National Council on Privatization.     

Apart from Okowa, other members of the 2011 SenateAd Hoc Committee on Privatization were Senator Ahmed Lawan – Chairman, Senators Babafemi Ojudu, Philip Aduda, Mohammed Ali Ndume, MohammaduMagoro and Hope Uzodinma (Incumbent Governor of Imo State). These men are all still alive today!

Also, in August, 2011, Mallam Nasir El Rufai(Incumbent Governor of Kaduna State) while testifying before the committee in his capacity as former Director General, Bureau for Privatization of Public Enterprises (BPE) revealed that the former Vice President influenced the sale of Government enterprises to his friends and cronies.

The senate committee report which succinctly captures how Atiku through retinue of cohorts, fronts and shell companies, ring fenced over 70% of FG’s assets through a “brazen daylight robbery privatization” that he supervised ought to be a public document. 

Based on an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)report, the senate committee recommended Atiku’s prosecution for (i) Diverting $145M from Nigerian Government accounts to private bank accounts with some of the money being “fraudulently converted as loans” for three companies connected to Atiku. (ii) $6m of the diverted funds allegedly went to iGate, a Kentucky, USA based communications firm that tried to do business in Nigeria in 2004. (Source: the Guardian of 28thFebruary, 2007)

Atiku’s bizarre idea of privatization can be better illustrated with the following examples:  

A. Niger Dock was the largest ship fabrication yard in West Africa. When it was sold, its Ex-MD, Engr. Nkpubre Okon, openly stated that Atiku ignored the Transport Ministry then to open a bid for the company.

His preferred bidder, ‘Global Energy’ that agreed to increase Niger Dock’s workforce from 4,800 to 6,000,as part of the privatization agreement dismissed 2,200, immediately it took acquired the company. 

B. Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) reform was purely contrived to grab landed properties. Ten thousandworkers were sacked and 133 bids opened for NPA properties consisting of 68 properties in Apapa, 28 houses in Ikoyi. The highest reserved bid was for a property in Ikoyi fixed at N390.4 Million.

C. Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi: In 2006, Wale Babalakin’s Resort Ltd acquired the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi, a 15 storey prime asset overgrown with weeds from Atiku through a Development Lease Agreement (DLA) for N7.2Billion. A Court has asked Buhari’s Government to pay N54 Billion to Babalakinfor that blunder.

The DLA, dated October 10, 2006, granted BabalakinResort Ltd a 99-years lease to redevelop the Federal Secretariat complex, that the Government had abandoned for 7 years, into 480 luxury apartments. 

The DLA hit the rocks when Lagos State Government,in the interest of the public indicated willingness in acquiring the Federal Secretariat complex, insisting that it should be accorded right of first refusal since LASG is the Issuing Authority of the C of O, coupled with other reasons.

D. Aluminium Smelting Company, ALSCON: The company which Nigeria built with $3.2 billion, was sold to a Russian firm, Russal, for $130million. As of the time of sale, ALSCON had received $120million for the dredging of Imo River, but it was never done. When the Senate adhoc committee asked the Russian company about the $120million dredging money, the company’s Deputy Managing Director, VitalyKuzrestov, brazenly stated that the money had been used for Environment Impact Assessment.”

E. Eleme Petrochemical Company: The Federal Government’s five percent share in the company worth USD27 million was never presented at the National Council on Privatization before it was sold to Indorama who recovered this amount selling Polyethylene and Urea to the entire West Africa sub-region in just 14 months.

F. Nigerian National Shipping Line: All the ships in the fleet of the Nigerian National Shipping Line disappeared during Atiku’s liquidation of the company, all in the name of privatization. 

H. Port Harcourt Refinery: In 2007, Atiku supervised the sale of Port Harcourt Refinery to his cronies. However, Late President Umar Yar’ Adua’sGovernment graciously reversed it.

In fact, there were over 600 federal assets when Atiku’sNCP started selling. Before, his current preachment on selling Government assets to fund infrastructural development, he should tell Nigerians who bought what and what was left for the country when he left power. Most importantly, he should tell Nigerians (those he is applying to for the job of running their country) the infrastructural projects he executed with the proceeds of the privatization. 

This becomes very expedient after the revelation by one of Atiku’s former close aides, Michael Achimugu, regarding how his erstwhile boss secretly diverted and siphoned government funds through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) using several bank accounts, including that of a company named Marine Float while in office as Vice President. Till date, Atiku’s attack dogs have been snarling at the whistleblower for patriotically speaking up without addressing the salient issues he raised. This has led to a law suit by the Minister of State for Labour & Productivity, Festus Keyamo, SANseeking his arrest and prosecution. 

Quite instructively, Atiku himself owns up to corruption and abuse of office when he claimed that he made his money, as a customs officer by engaging in “kabukabu” business with his car. Firstly, it is against extant public service rules for a public servant to be engaged in private business of any nature, while still in service. Secondly, it is laughable for him to claim to have made his millions as a customs officer from being a cab driver. Rather, the more realistic explanation is the one given by Chief Dan Ulasi, Atiku’sTechnical Adviser on Contact & Mobilization (South East) while speaking as a guest on AIT’s Kaakaki recently.

 According to him, “Ndigbo are indebted to Atiku because of how he helped Igbo traders (smugglers)immediately after the civil war. As a young customs officer, when he catches them, for not paying their custom duties, he allows them to go and sell their goods and then pay later”. The implication is that Atiku was conniving with smugglers, both Igbo and non-Igbos to circumvent due process by denying the Government of the revenue that ought to accrue to it from customs duties. Those smugglers bargain with him to turn a blind eye as they engage in their nefarious activities while they settle him afterwards. 

Atiku himself during a recent interview on Arise TV, inadvertently admitted to running a cab business while serving as a customs officer at Idi-Irokoborder post, Ogun State contrary to the fifth schedule, section 2(b) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, which says: “a public officer shall no, except where he is not employed on full time basis engage or participate in the management or running of any private business”.

He founded his logistics company, Nigerian Container Services (NICOTES) later renamed IntelsLogistics in 1982, while still in the employment of Nigerian Customs Service, ostensibly with money he made illicitly while conniving with smugglers.

Furthermore, it is a fallacy for Atiku to claim that the Nigerian Government  cannot run an oil company profitably. According to investopedia, the largest oil companies in the world are state owned. They include china’s Sinopec, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, Russia’s Rosneft, National Iranian Oil Company and Brazil’s Petrobras.  So what is wrong with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)? CORRUPTION!

Besides, Akwa Ibom State under Governor Emmanuel Udom has proved Atiku wrong by showing that with financial prudence and sincerity, Government, whether Federal or State can run a business profitably in Nigeria. Today, Akwa Ibom State owned Ibom Air, founded on 7th June, 2019 has become a revelation, having won the Best Airline in Nigeria Award for two years in a row. 

Finally, Nigerians expect Atiku to emulate Dangote by building his own refinery since he is deeply interested in the oil industry instead of plotting to corruptly acquire Nigerian Government refineries through the backdoor. 

Mazi Ikechukwu Bismarck Oji, MNSE 

Publisher, hoohaa newspapers (www.hoohaa.com.ng)(www.english.hoohaa.com.ng) 

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