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Sale of refineries: NLC demands Obasanjo’s probe

Posted by By BASHIR UMAR, Abuja on 2007/07/15 | Views: 509 |

Sale of refineries: NLC demands Obasanjo’s probe

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday called on the Senate ad-hoc committee investigating the sales of Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the extent of involvement of all stakeholders, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in the deal, which was concluded at the twilight of the last Federal Government.

Testifying before the committee, the Secretary of the NLC, Comrade John Odah, who led chairmen of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), also called on the Senate to review the sales of national assets, like NITEL, Transcorp-Hilton, Ajaokuta Steel Company, Egbin thermal power station and the Aluminium Smelter Company.

Pointing fingers at the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), which is the government agent for selling national assets, the NLC revealed that the sale of Kaduna Refinery was carried within 10 days before the end of Obasanjo’s tenure, adding that such a deal "smacks of dishonesty and vested interest".

According to the NLC, "the sale of Kaduna Reifnery to Blue Star Oil Services Company did not go through the open bidding system, which characterized all other privatization process, but was conducted through an invitational tender, vide a memo addressed to Mr. President by the minister of finance, which requested him to approve the sale of KRPC to Blue Star at a fixed price of $60million." He asked the committee to request the BPE to produce the memo.

The NLC also wanted BPE to produce the final report by Credit Swiss First Boston (CSFB), the consultants that first did the valuation of the Kaduna Refinery, to establish the estimated reserve prices for the refineries and compare it with the one by BPN Paribas Report, which was eventually used to sell the refineries.

At this juncture, ad-hoc committee chairman, Senator Ewa Henshaw, asked the BPE director general, Mrs Ngozi Chigbue, to respond, to which she said the first consultant was not rejected but that "they refused to come when invited to complete their job on the excuse that government was owing them $4 million, payment of which they demanded before they continued."

The Labour leadership, which revealed that assets of the Kaduna Refinery included turn around maintenance (TAM), insurance and projects executed to date were valued at $314 million , questioned the 51 percent equity sold at $160 million and wondered how the last consultant, BNP Paribas, got its reserve price of $120million.

On the sale of the Port Harcourt Refinery, NLC also revealed that its assets were worth $2.5billion. It asked the Senate to make BPE produce the report that recommended the sale of Eleme Petrochemical Company at $600 million but sold at $250 million.

The labour leaders also queried the reason for absolving the new owner of the liability of the company, which was over $300 million, even as the new management sacked over 900 workers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), who were absorbed into the petro-chemical company, leaving only 11 of them and bringing 115 Indians into the firm when it was taken over.
"Group Managing Director of NNPC should be requestee to confirm how much money had been sunk into the the repairs of the Eleme Petrol Chemical Company before it was sold at $I billion even though its value was $1.8billion," the NLC submitted.

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