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That Unhealthy Development in Nitels’ Privatization Process

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Few weeks ago the process of finding a new investor for Nigerian Telecommunications Limited entered concluding stage with the emergence of New Generation Telecommunications Consortium as the preferred bidder. The announcement of the consortium by Bureau of Public Enterprise, the agency saddled with the responsibility of selling 75 percent stake in the moribund telecommunications company raised hope for some Nigerians who said, ‘at least Nitel will work again’, while staff of the company are happy that when the new company takes over fully those who are retain will no longer be owe salaries.
Unfortunately, there was a twist in the process as one of the technical partners to the preferred bidder submitted to BPE came out to state that the company is not part of the arrangement, thereby posing questions on transparency of the process.
It all started after BPE had announced New Generation Telecommunications Technologies as preferred bidder with $2.5 billion naming China Unicom as technical partner and Minerva Group of United Arab Emirates as financier.
Bloomberg reported that china Unicom’s spokeswoman, Dr. Sophia Tso, had denied the company’s participation in the bid for Nitel. China Unicom is China’s second-biggest telecoms carrier and Tso said, they have double checked with their head office and have not heard of the project.  Reacting to the disclaimer, New Generations Telecommunications Consortium explained that the deal would be financed substantially by the Minerva Group of the United Arab Emirates and not China Unicom. It also explained that China Unicom would provide technical and managerial support and consider a minimum of 20 per cent equity participation in Nitel on terms that were to be agreed. According to the Authorized Representative of the consortium, Mr. Usman Gumi, New Generations Telecommunications Consortium is a consortium of several companies for the purpose of the Nitel bid and naturally, the consortium would have financial and technical partners. He said: “the financial backbone of the New Generations Telecommunications Consortium is the Minerva Group of the United Arab Emirates and they have what it takes to turn around Nitel and give Nigerians good telecommunication services.” Gumi further listed other partners of the consortium to include GiCell Wireless Limited, a Unified Access Service Licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission, Sumatra Star GT Limited and BGL Private Equity Limited. Other partners with whom the consortium had reportedly signed Memorandum of Understanding including GT Afflnalia in association with Ring South Europa, Spain and Xtra Telecommunications/Phone House Group, Fibre Homes Technologies, Huawei Technologies Limited, operators of the National Rural Telephony Programme in Nigeria and China Academy of Telecommunications Technology.
In a swift reaction to the development, the sent out a letter signed by Chu Ka Yee Company Secretary of China Union (Europe) Operations Limited, made available to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek, confirmed the company’s willingness to be the technical partners to support New Generations Telecommunications Consortium to bid for Nitel and provide technical and managerial support.
The letter reads: “The board of directors of China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited would like to make an announcement in relation to various recent media reports, in which the Company was reported to have participated in the proposed privatization (the “Proposed Privatisation”) of Nigerian Telecommunications Plc (“NITEL”).
The board of directors the Company would like to make an announcement in relation to various recent media reports, in which the Company was reported to have participated
in the Proposed Privatisation.
China Unicom (Europe) Operations Limited (“Unicom Europe”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company incorporated in the United Kingdom whose main business is telecommunications operations in the United Kingdom, has been in contact with certain potential bidders who propose to participate in the Proposed Privatisation. Unicom Europe has indicated its interest in the provision of technical and managerial support services in relation to the Proposed Privatisation. Unicom Europe has also indicated that, subject to certain conditions being fulfilled, it would be interested in exploring the possibility of equity investment in Nitel. As at the date of this announcement, Unicom
Europe has not commenced any negotiations with the relevant parties with respect to any substantive and legally binding agreements. The Company has not participated in any direct discussions or negotiations with any relevant parties involved in the Proposed Privatisation. China United Network Communications Group Company Limited, the Company’s controlling shareholder, has also informed the Company that it has not participated in any direct discussions or negotiations with any relevant parties involved in the Proposed Privatisation either. The Company will continue to observe the development of the Proposed Privatisation, and will make announcements as and when appropriate.
The Company is very concerned about the various recent media reports in which the
Company was reported to have participated in the Proposed Privatisation, and advises investors not to rely on any information concerning the Company or any of its subsidiaries in relation to the Proposed Privatisation other than information provided in the Company’s announcements. The Company has not authorised and the Company is not aware of anyone having authorised any person to release any information regarding the Company’s or any of its subsidiaries’ participation in the Proposed Privatisation.
The Company has not authorised any person to comment on, and it will not comment on,
any media reports or market rumours relating to the Proposed Privatisation.
However, BPE the country’s privatisation body has also cleared up any confusion over China Unicom’s involvement in a $2.5 billion bid for the former state telecoms monopoly, allowing it to go for final approval.
The new generations Telecommunications Company has presented a bank draft of 30% of the bid price at the spot even though the acquisition does not include Nitel’s debt obligations which is estimated to run in billions.
It would be recalled that a similar thing happened during the time Transcorp acquired 51% stake in this same Nitel. It made bid for Nitel based on its said agreement with British Telecom that was expected to provide it with technical expertise in turning Nitel around as well as eventual acquire some 30% stake in the company. We are all witness to how British Telecom left as a result of lack of legal agreement to that effect, which eventual led to failure of Transcorp in reviving Nitel.
Uncertainty over the bid also arose because of the mysterious identity of the group in Dubai, which the consortium said would provide much of the financing for a bid that was five times higher than many analysts had believed Nitel was worth.
Taiwo Osipitan, head of the technical committee of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), said the technical committee had examined the bid, and it was satisfied that due process had been followed correctly and to the highest international standards.
"In the light of this, we have resolved to recommend to the NCP that the result of the bid be accepted," he said.
Nigeria has been trying to sell Nitel for almost a decade, and the controversy over the latest effort to do so is embarrassing for sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest economy.
Engr. Bayo Banjo, managing director, Disc Communications said that the amount of bided by New Generation Telecommunications is ridiculously high compared to the fact that Nitel has zero subscriber base and that it is only real estate that is valuable asset in the company, even as most of its transmission equipments are obsolete.
He added that there should be investigation to ascertain if China Unicorn was ever part of the consortium from the beginning, if not; it means that the emergence of New Generation Telecommunication consortium is surrounded with fraud.
He expressed doubt that with the current state of affairs in the controversy, if the consortium will be available to revive the moribund telecommunication company.
Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Nitel) said that the process of privatization of Nitel is still at a bid stage which is subject to federal government approval and that there is no commercial agreement signed yet with New Generation Telecommunications until they are able to pay complete the sum that made them emerged as the preferred bidder.
He urged Nigerians to await and see as events in the coming days play out to be able to ascertain the competent of the preferred bidder’s ability to revive Nitel.
Fola Odufuwa, founder eShekel, a telecom research company, said that the pricing appear on the high side and that it may be tough for the winning bidders to fund the deal. He added that it is also important that the stated cost of the bid is separated from the hidden cost which includes the huge liabilities and the capital expenditure that will have to be incurred to revive the company. He added that, though the deal itself may succeed, securing operational control of Nitel will be a different matter altogether. He expressed the hope that Nitel can be transformed but that the jury will be out on the ability of the buyers to succeed where everyone else so far has failed.

 


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Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

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The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), has started to broadcast a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signal over Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI), providing its first open service in the region via NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite managed and operated the by Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd., under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions

This early open service is provided as part of the programme, which pursues the autonomous provision SBAS services in Africa, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.

With improved accuracy to within a meter, and boosted integrity, availability, and continuity of safety-related applications, these SBAS services will improve flight safety and efficiency in Africa, and also benefit the economy in many areas as land, sea, and rail transport, as well as mass-market applications, supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development.

The launched open service essentially aims to carry-out technical trials, and to undertake partner airlines field demonstrations for aircraft and rotorcraft, to demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024. It will also include early Precise Point Positioning (PPP), and emergency warning service to populations, which performance will be proven through other demonstrations.

The signal-in-space is generated by a dedicated system tested, developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” preliminary design phase, financed by the European Union, and awarded to Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 per cent), and Leonardo (33 per cent).

The “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” is based on the European EGNOS (1) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), acting under the delegation of the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency GSA.

The system prototype uses as reference stations the SAGAIE network deployed by CNES and ASECNA with the support of Thales Alenia Space.

The signal is broadcasted via the SBAS payload on NigComSat 1R GEO satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite, and an uplink station deployed in Abuja, Nigeria.

It is compliant to the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the minimum operational performance standard developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) organisation.

It will be visible in the whole of Africa and the Indian Ocean, up to the West Australian coast, and also in Europe.

Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director/chief executive officer of NIGCOMSAT, said: “we are proud to be part of this ambitious program to provide satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region. The use of our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to broadcast the first signal will be Africa’s premier contribution to SBAS as a regional satellite-based augmentation system for the continent.”

On his part, Benoit Broudy, vice president, Navigation Business at Thales Alenia Space in France, said the longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe, and KASS SBAS in Korea, combined with the new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies make Thales Alenia the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently.

“The equatorial region represents also a key engineering challenge for such a system due to difficult ionosphere conditions, for which Thales Alenia Space has developed a proven solution,” he stated.

Mohamed Moussa, director-general of ASECNA, said the provision of the first African SBAS early service is a crucial major step forward in the development of satellite navigation in the AFI region, and in the deployment of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa.

He said: “It demonstrates the ambition and commitment of ASECNA to enhance air navigation safety for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”


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ipNX, USTDA Ink Partnership Deal to Develop Nigeria’s ICT Infrastructure

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ipNX, Nigeria’s pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed a partnership deal that will further support the development of Nigeria’s ICT and broadband infrastructure and help ipNX expand its fibre-optic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt.

A virtual signing ceremony that signalled the beginning of this far reaching relationship between the two parties was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.

Through this innovative initiative, the USTDA is supporting ipNX to promote inclusive, secure and sustainable connectivity across the nation.

The agreements were made possible as a result of several engagements between the USTDA delegation to Nigeria and the leadership of ipNX; and will advance the goals of the recently updated Nigerian Broadband Plan.

At the Signing Ceremony, Ejovi Aror, group managing director of ipNX, said: “We believe that world-class connectivity and broadband internet access will be pivotal to the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

‘We are very positive that this project will play a crucial role in making our belief a reality.”

Aror added that with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for a vibrant ICT sector has never been stronger and the new partnership will bring ipNX a step closer to achieving its mission to continually leverage technology to create innovative solutions that help mankind thrive, while making a crucial impact to the lives of Nigerians across the country.

Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, said’ “These projects will support the development of Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure and help to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

“The U.S. Government has committed significant resources to improving telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria and this support is crucial as we believe that investment in critical ICT projects will strengthen the resiliency outlined in Nigeria’s economic sustainability plan.”

Also present at the virtual event, the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Bako Wakil, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said: “The support this grant will provide to the telecommunications sector, in particular broadband, is in line with the National Digital Strategy and the National Broadband Plan.

“The NCC would like to congratulate ipNX as it shows the company’s integrity and commitment to be selected for this grant”.

ipNX also revealed that it intends to continue to work with USTDA beyond the preliminary stage, to execute many more projects into the future that will bring about the digital transformation and socio-economic development of major cities in Nigeria in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.

With their partnership, both parties fully agree that further development of the nation’s broadband infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential promised by Nigeria’s digital economy.

According to the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report’ released in 2019, Broadband is a key enabler to harness the digital economy transformation and high-speed broadband has the potential to accelerate Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

 


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Manfa, ANSICTA Boss Pledges to Collaborate with NITDA for Establishment of Zonal Office in Anambra State

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Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA) has hinted that they are ready to collaborate with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) for the establishment of the agency’s South-East Zonal office in the State.

 

He stated this when he led ANSICTA delegation to NITDA’s head office in Abuja recently.

 

Mr Manfa explained that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”

Dr Vincent Vincent Olatunji, Director E-Government and Regulation NITDA receiving an award on behalf of the DG from Theo Manafa MD ANSICTA

He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.

 

He requested NITDA’s partnership with ANSICTA in building an ICT Hub in Anambra State; hosting a NITDA regional office; hosting NITDA events and programs as a State and region; trainings and Skills development programs of NITDA where the State hopes to train 40,000 residents in the next 2 years in Digital skills; establishment of cooperation on the Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and the provision of the Unity Board where 150 units were requested for a program for secondary schools in Anambra.

 

ANSICTA also presented an award to the Director General for his “Outstanding Achievements in Driving theDigital Economy” which was received by Dr. Vincent Olatunji on behalf of the DG.

 

Dr. Olatunji responded along with comments from some of the Directors and said NITDA would be glad to cooperate with the State.

L-R: Theo Manafa, MD/CEO of ANSICTA, Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, DG of NITDA and Michael Orekyeh, COO of ANSICTA

He said it was gratifying to note that Anambra State now has an ICT Agency as Gov Willie Obiano had visited NITDA 6 years ago and the agency had worked with the State in developing an ICT policy for Anambra.

 

The success of that exercise is the take off of the agency (ANSICTA) which is the execution arm of the policy developed by NITDA.

 

He further said ANSICTA was by the speech of its MD really in tune with the affairs and mandates of NITDA and stated that ANSICTA should make a formal application for the things requested at this meeting will be looked into by Management for approval by the Director General.

 

He also thanked ANSICTA for recognizing the hard work of the DG through the award they presented, which he said was most encouraging.

Michael Orekyeh; chief operating officer of ANSICTA was part of the delegation from Anambra State. while the Director General of NITDA, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was represented by the Director E-Government and Regulation, Dr. Vincent Olatunji; Director Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship – OIIE, Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Sambo Magaji; Deputy Director of IT Infrastructure, Dr. Saidu Kumo; SA Technical to the DG, Dr. Mohammed Yahaya; Corporate Strategy Department, Dr. Taofik Yekini and other Directors and Key Management Staff.

 

 

 


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