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KonkNaija Media | May 2, 2016

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Atiku Abubakar and Nasir el-Rufai trade blames for Pentascope Tragedy

Atiku Abubakar and Nasir el-Rufai trade blames for Pentascope Tragedy

| On 15, Apr 2013

Local Newspapers in Nigeria reported during the week that former NITEL operatives whose careers went down with the Company have put all the blame on Mr. Nasir el-Rufai who, as Director General of Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, took the many decisions that drowned the first National Operator.

Nasir, in his ‘The Accidental Public Servant’, an account of his days as Minister avoided recounting the Pentascope tragedy apparently as it was outside the scope of the book. But former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who got hit in the book told a newspaper interviewer that Nasir it was who destroyed NITEL by his deeds especially by handing over NITEL to the lackluster Pentascope contract managers in 2003. Nasir disagreed with Atiku and suggested that it was indeed Atiku as Chairman, National Council on Privatisation (NCP), who blew up NITEL.

Those who know the story very well said the difference between Atiku and Nasir on the NITEL matter could, at best, be like differentiating between six and half a dozen.


However, a 2005 House of Representative investigation into the Pentascope deal put all the blame on Nasir el-Rufai.  The report after exonerating two Boards of Directors of NITEL, two Ministers of Communications and the Vice-President reported in paragraph 7.6 as follows:



7.6       BPE Leadership under Mallam El-Rufai

The BPE had overall responsibility for the successful privatisation of NITEL. In order to achieve this goal the leadership would need to work with many stake holders from inception. But the evidence provided by minutes of meetings, memoranda and testimonies of all the stakeholders show that BPE leadership treated others with trepidations. This breeds distrust, but more dangerously it attracts resistance from others. Good managers carry others along, but BPE treated stakeholders as intruders and therefore failed to carry others that might otherwise be helpful to the process.


When BPE suddenly recognised that NITEL should get involved the management contract selection was close to completion. It may not be wrong to infer that the need to involve NITEL only became obvious during the preparation of the contract document since NITEL has enormous role to play in the future. If this theory is right then the NITEL involvement was after-thought. However, if the leadership of BPE says that it was because there was no board in place hence NITEL did not get involve earlier, then this would be absurd since they would have co-opted some senior management staff of NITEL right from beginning to bring in specialist knowledge. By keeping NITEL out of the loop until the tail end of the process and treating their complaints with disdain only served to deepen the distrust for the process chaired by BPE. The BPE as a result lost the regard of MOC and NITEL Board because of its lack of understanding of the basic principles of negotiation and listening skills, when BPE tried to use senior officials of NCP to compel but these only serve to deepen the hate created and postpone the doom day.


The BPE presided over a process with many warning signs detailed in the sections 6.1-5 but failed out of unscrupulous and callous attention to details and incompetence to spot the warning signs. Recognising and addressing the warning signals would have made significant difference that would have redirected the process to the part of success.


Going through the different stages of the process, we have shown that the product of the stages drawn up by PWH (Price Water House) and supervised by BPE were flawed and could therefore not produce the expected result. In section 1.2 we showed that the advert for the contract was poorly drafted and ambiguous, but BPE and its adviser failed to recognise this. We also showed that there were problems with the selection process and the drawn contract (see 3.1 – 3.4) and every step were marred with untold incompetence that collectively led to the failure of the management contract.


The former DG of BPE, Mallam El-Rufai contended during the presentation to the House that Pentascope failed because the executive committee that was supposed to help expedite action was not created after he left office. This has been addressed in (4.4) and in my opinion the process already failed before it began. There was nothing that would have made Pentascope to be successful because it was never qualified to manage a company with the attributes of NITEL.


While one does not expect the leadership of BPE to have specialist knowledge about all the companies that it was expected to privatise, it is incumbent upon them to seek second opinion or further help where necessary. They supervised a process for which the advice PWH provided was porous and incompetent. The BPE under the leadership of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, are obviously to blame for the failed process.


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