Federal High Court stops liquidation of NITEL – Aloysius Ejimakor

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A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has granted an injunction stopping the liquidation of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

Ruling on a suit with reference No FHC/Ph/S/471/2011 filed by Snytel IG Wills Communications Limited against the Nigeria Telecommunications Plc, Bureau of Public Enterprises, Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI), National Council on Privatisation (NCP), Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Federal Government of Nigeria, Lambo Akanbi, who presided over the case directed all parties to maintain “ante bellcum” pending the determination of the case fixed for March 24, 2014.

Counsel to the plaintiff, Francis Enyong, had earlier informed the court that while the suit was pending, the defendants had filed a residing suit for the liquidation of NITEL in an Abuja High Court.

The judge frowned at the actions of the defendants, who were all present in court and mandated them to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the existing suit on March 24, 2014.

The plaintiff had dragged the Federal Government to court over plans to liquidate NITEL.

It would be recalled that a fresh drive to buy ailing Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) had been initiated by Brymedia, according to TechnologyTimes. This new move would see the second reserve bidder in the failed 2010 sale emerge as a serious contender in the ongoing phased liquidation of assets of the ailing first national operator.

Analysts suggest that Brymedia is strategically positioning itself to play actively in the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) new broadband market structure. The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had opted for a phased liquidation of NITEL after another unsuccessful privatisation programme in 2010 that would have resulted in divestment of 75 percent stakes in the public-owned telecoms company to willing buyers.

Giving cogent reasons for its decision to adopt guided liquidation in the sale, the BPE said the state-owned telecom company’s liabilities far outweigh their current value.

In the botched 2010 sale of NITEL, New Generation Consortium, made up of China Unicom of Hong Kong, Minerva Group of Dubai and Nigeria’s GiCell Wireless Limited, emerged preferred bidder for NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, M-TEL with an offer of $2.5 billion; Omen International emerged reserve bidder with $956,996,091 while Brymedia emerged second reserve with $550 million.

Adrian Wood, chief executive officer of Brymedia, said in an interview that its revised plan for NITEL is part of a two-pronged drive for dual stakes in Nigeria’s vibrant telecoms industry.

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