NATCOM Sacks NITEL, M-Tel Workers

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NATCOM during handover of NITEL

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The NATCOM Consortium terminates the appointment of more than 400 staff of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL, and its mobile subsidiary M-Tel

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Jun 1, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

NATCOM Consortium, new owners of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL, and its mobile subsidiary, M-Tel, has sacked all the workers. The action is coming less than one month after the federal government handed over the NITEL and M-Tel to NATCOM Consortium. The workers, numbering more than 400, would leave both companies by the end of this month.

The workers had started turning in the assets of the company in their possession in order to get their terminal benefits, including the salary for the month of May, pension and gratuity. Although the letter of disengagement addressed to each of them was dated April 30, 2015, the workers started receiving the letters on Monday, May 18, according to Punch of May 21.

Preparatory to the physical takeover of the assets of the beleaguered telecommunications companies by the NATCOM Consortium, the workers had earlier this week begun moving from the Benue Plaza in Abuja, which housed the headquarters of the organisations for some years now. The movable assets of the companies would temporarily be warehoused at the NITEL Exchange in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja.

In the letter of termination of employment signed by Olutola Senbore, liquidator of the company, the NITEL workers were told that they could only get their terminal benefits if they handed over all the company assets in their possession. “As you are aware, the liquidation of the NITEL/M-Tel has reached the last stage of the process, i.e., the physical handover of the asset to the buyer of the asset, the NATCOM Consortium, also known as NATCOM Development Investment Limited.

NITEL House
NITEL House

“The formal handover ceremony took place on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Physical handover will commence from this week and is expected to last about three weeks, i.e. until 22nd of May, 2015. When the physical handover is completed, the services of all members of staff will no longer be required. Consequently, your service has been terminated effective from the close of work on 31st of May, 2015. Arrangements are being made to pay salaries up to May 2015 and entitlements due to all members of staff-in-post as approved by the Committee of Inspection. Please note that the payment of final entitlement will be subject to the usual company’s rules and regulations, which include the submission of the company’s properties, pass codes, and Intellectual Right etc. in the possession of workers prior to the payment of the entitlements,” the letter stated.

NATCOM recently emerged the core investor in NITEL and was handed over the company on April 28. Alex Okoh, head, Public Communications, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, said there was no clause in the Share Purchase Agreement restraining the core investor from sacking the workers for a period of time. He said NATCOM emerged as a core investor in NITEL/M-Tel through a liquidation process and not through the usual core investor sale, adding that it was the latter that placed a restraint on the core investor from sacking the inherited workers for a period of six months.

Okoh, however, said that the restraint on the core investor was moral and a wise business decision, arguing that it would not make any business sense to sack all the workers as they still had the better knowledge of the operations of the company. Investigation showed that the decision to sack all the workers must have been taken to avoid any responsibility by the new owner to them.

The National Council on Privatisation had in 2013 approved the privatisation of NITEL and M-Tel through guided liquidation. It also on November 11, 2013, approved the appointment of Olutola Senbore as the liquidator of the firms. At the financial bid opening on December 3, 2014, NATCOM emerged the preferred bidder for the firms, with an offer of $252.25 million.

NATTAG, which had earlier been prequalified by the BPE to participate in the process, was disqualified as a result of the failure of the company to include the $10 million bid bond as prescribed in the Request for Proposal document.

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