• As Company’s ‘ghost’ haunts proposed new national carrier
About one year after its sale to business mogul, Mr Femi Otedola hit the rocks, the Federal Government is set to auction erstwhile national carrier; the Nigerian Unity Line (NUL).
Already, a memo to justify the option of ‘negotiated sale’ of the national carrier has been forwarded to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which sources hinted s been very embarrassed about the failure to get new owners for company. The memo reportedly emanated from the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE); the federal government agency in charge of sale of government companies.
Shipping Position Weekly learnt last week that apparently unable to secure a buyer since Otedola’s company; Seaforce Shipping company backed out of the BPE- brokered sale, no new buyer has shown interests in acquiring the company; a development which necessitated the resort to selling the organisation at all cost.
Otedola had backed out of the sale after paying a whopping US$20Million in a deal that was expected to include using the status of NUL as a national carrier to lift Nigeria’s crude oil.
Seaforce won the bid for NUL on December 1, 2005, at the peak of Otedola’s romance with then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He paid the US$20Million bid price in February, 2006, but failed to take advantage of the company as a national carrier until September, 2007, by which time, a new President had been sworn in.
Industry sources told our correspondent last week in Lagos that it would be difficult for BPE to get a buyer for NUL within the Nigerian maritime sector, because according to them, the company is worth nothing, except on paper.
“The only ship, MV Abuja which NUL would have had was sold in 2002 under very controversial circumstances and one wonders why the government decided to sell the certificate of NUL which is a government-owned company and which is national carrier to an individual”, a source said.
A cross section of industry watchers also expressed shock that government is interested in auctioning NUL at a critical period when it is also contemplating floating a new national carrier.
“That is a very ridiculous step, how can they want to auction NUL on the right and on the left be floating another national carrier”, an industry operator enthused, arguing that rather selling the NUL off at a very ridiculous price, what the federal government ought to do is to re-launch and repackage NUL.
Confirming what he called ‘negotiated sale’ of the erstwhile national carrier, spokesman for BPE Mr Chigbo Anichebe told Shipping Position Weekly that the company is actually not worth much. “What we are selling is its certificate, it has no assets”, he lamented, but refused to give details of how and when the auction will be carried out.