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Exclusives

The long road from NITEL to NTEL and the dashed hopes

If NITEL was a failed project, it’s acquisition and transition is yet to bring about the much-needed succor that stakeholders and investors hoped for.

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NITEL could be best described as an epic representation of a government institution that failed repeatedly, despite several attempts to revamp it.

Hence, it piques the interest of stakeholders as to how a Nigerian based consortium, NATCOM, was able to turn around NITEL’s fortunes after successfully acquiring it.

Since the company made its first on-net test data call in Lagos on Monday, January 18, 2016, and followed with its first on-net Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) call in Lagos on Thursday, February 25, 2016; Ntel has continued to run without looking back, obviously learning from the mistakes of NITEL.

How it began

After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the control of the under-developed telecommunications sector was consigned to the Nigerian Post and Telegraph (P&T), an agency owned and managed by the federal government.

Nigeria had only 18,724 telephone lines at the time, so the agency had little on its plate. Two decades later, the government established the Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET) to provide external communications services.

NET and the telecommunications arm of P&T were later merged following the demand for commercialization of telecommunications services.

Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) was born out of this merger in 1985 and saddled with the responsibility of meeting the telecommunications needs of Nigerians.

MTEL falls short of expectations

Despite the huge amount of funds invested annually in the agency, NITEL was unable to expand its installed capacity beyond 700,000linesup until 2001 when the government started its deregulation moves.

NITEL introduced mobile telephony in 1992 through a partnership with an Atlanta-based firm, but nothing changed.

Operations remained inefficient, lines congested, billing system unreliable and call completion rate for long-distance calls remained below 50%. By the mid-90s, it was obvious that NITEL lacked adequate capacity to meet the growing demand for its services.

MTEL was then established in 1996 as the mobile arm of NITEL, to provide cellular services and sustain the business of NITEL in the deregulated telecom sector.

The government had high hopes in this new arm and its ability to expand access to information and communications technology (ICT) in Nigeria, that when other private investors joined a competitive bid for the GSM licence in Nigeria in 2001 at an exclusive sum of $285 million, MTEL got its Digital Mobile Licence from NITEL on a platter, without any hassle. MTEL also inherited infrastructure from NITEL, so it started off on the front foot.

With this edge, MTEL could have easily offered quality services at a competitive price to Nigerians, while the other GSM companies were struggling to take off, but this did not happen.

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Like most other businesses run by the government, MTEL barely took off before crashing, especially since the competition comprised of businesses run by shrewd private businessmen and investors. By this time, the government had realised it had no ‘business’ in business, hence the decision to privatise it.

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Struggling to sell

If anyone had thought the government was sloppy in running a business, he must have realised how wrong he was when something as simple as selling off the business took an entire decade without success.

In 2001, Investors International London Limited (ILLL) made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire NITEL. The consortium appeared capable of changing the NITEL narrative with its international clout and local backing, but the failure to pay up the bid price of $1.32billion left investors biting their fingers. They lost out and could not even recover the part sum already paid.

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Thereafter, Pentascope of Netherlands put in a bid but after signing the management contract to resuscitate the company, the deal hit the rocks.

In less than a year from April 2003, Pentascope had squandered the N15 billion which it inherited, to record a loss of N19.15 billion, with a significant slump in turnover.

The crisis which followed later revealed that Pentascope should never have landed the contract, since the bid specified a telecoms firm of international repute; whereas, Pentascope was just a young consultancy firm with no relevant pedigree. The big question then was, “why were they chosen for such a herculean task?”

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As the House of Representatives’ probe later revealed, due diligence was not followed in awarding the contract and the selection process was shambolic.

After a failed pitch from Orascom, Transcorp acquired NITEL for $500 million in 2006, but after some financial issues, the Federal Government revoked the acquisition and set up a Technical Board of Management with members drawn from various MDAs to handle the administration of NITEL and MTEL, until the completion of the sales process.

Subsequently, New Generation Consortium attempted to acquire it with an offer of $2.5 billion but also failed due to payment default. Omen attempted an offer price of $956.9 million and failed too.

In view of the several failed attempts, the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), in February 2012, approved that the privatization of NITEL and MTEL be done through “guided liquidation,” where the core assets and business undertaking of NITEL and MTEL would be sold as single or multiple lots to a qualified bidder under the guidance of the NCP.

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Over the next 2 years, the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) received expressions of interest from 17 bodies and shortlisted 2 applicants – NATCOM Consortium led by Tunde Ayeni and NETTAG Consortium.

On December 3, 2014, NATCOM emerged as the preferred bidder with $252.5 million, and sealed the deal with complete payment of the sum in April 2015 to become the full owners.

Among other assets acquired, NATCOM received the licences and the spectrum, the nationwide fixed wired networks, the fibre optic transmission backbone, the national right of way duct system, international gateway earth stations, microwave transmission equipment/network and towers, the CDMA network system, the Mtel GSM network including mobile switching centres, base station controllers, base transceiver stations and the general packet radio services.

Also, included were the analogue (TACs) system and other core assets, as well as the SAT-3 international submarine cable, with NITEL owning 6.32 per cent shareholding in the consortium.

A new beginning with NATCOM /NTEL

Trading with the name NTEL, NATCOM Development & Investment Limited got to work immediately, trying to revamp a comatose company. Besides an inherited liability of N43 billion in pensions, there were a lot other renovations to be dealt with.

It has since launched its 4G LTE network with coverage in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, and plans to expand its LTE Advanced mobile services including VoLTE, high-speed internet access, messaging and video services, international bandwidth, and international voice termination to other states.

In an interview, CEO of NTEL, Kamar Abass, noted that the company had to invest as much as $1 billion to put most of the dilapidated infrastructure back into use. In spite of the hurdles, the company, within its first 6 months of operation, attained full network coverage in Abuja, across large swathes of Lagos and then parts of Ogun, Nasarawa, and Niger states.

It launched full VoLTE services, signed a landmark deal with Samsung, perfected its selfcare recharge via its website, and transformed the broadband landscape with its superfast and unlimited data propositions.

Nigeria’s fifth mobile operator started growing its subscriber base gradually and creating thousands of jobs along the value chain. The company and its staff have also carried out several corporate social responsibilities over the years.

In 2018, NTEL emerged telecoms company of the year at the Leadership Annual Conference and Awards.

Right after the acquisition, Nigerian business tycoon, Gen. TY Danjuma, was announced Board Chairman, with Dr. Tunde Ayeni as Vice Chairman. Captain Idahosa Okunbo, Abiola Ayeni, Kasheem Shettima, Philip Chukwu, Kola Adesina, John Darlington, Dan Kunle, Babatunde Omotoba and Kamar Abass also joined as Board members.

Meanwhile…

Even after the acquisition, NITEL is still involved in lingering controversies. There was a rumour of a N41 Billion fraud involving NITEL in liquidation, and this version of the story pointed fingers at some top banks in the country, causing them to scurry around in a bid to clear their name.

In May 2020, about 8000 retirees and pensioners of the NITEL/MTEL decried the refusal of the government to pay their housing funds and 83 months accrued pension arrears, even though it was captured in the 2020 budget, and their colleagues in other agencies had been paid since 2019.

The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) is still prosecuting defendants since 2014 over theft of lands and properties belonging to the now-defunct NITEL.

One could say NITEL was bad news and all, but even its acquisition has not brought an end to the associated crisis.

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career.As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Patrick Njoku

    December 19, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    You still need more info on this to complete your write up. Till date former NITEL/MTEL staff are still being owed, please beg Federal Government to release their money as some have died of starvation. This is a call for help.

  2. Musa Routa Briston

    December 19, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Am a staff of Nitel Mtel. We have registered association and follow up with Presidency to pay us our benifts. This story is half truth. The truth will come up. Nitel Mtel is still at liquidation because liquidator was appointed by compitent court to liquidate Nitel Mtel and liquidator was appointed now set aside. It was not quided liquidation as claimed.

  3. Emmanuel Ossai

    December 19, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    That was a good article. But it could do with more research. It would have been better appreciated if figures were supplied to show government funding of NITEL before it was privatized. This is important since it was stated that huge funds were invested annually in NITEL.
    Well informed Telecom analysts generally agree that the main problem of NITEL before it was privatized was under funding and under investment.
    Finally, what’s the source of the information that Pentascope squandered the N15billion it inherited?

  4. Sani Balarabe

    December 20, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Ruth, you probably didn’t have the real facts of Nigel privatization. Fistrly, Nigel was sold to Ntel as a liqudeted company, which means no liability was transferred to Ntel. Hence I cant see the justification for the N41bn liability claim. Secondly, the mobile arm of Nigel paired competitively well amongst Mtn and Econet of those days in terms of operational coverage, QoS and revenue. The promoters of Nigel privatization hinged their arguments on the inefficiency and corruption ridden Nitel LANDLINE business, but not Mtel and other services like Sat-3. And history has vindicated those having a contrary view of selling Nigel. The new NTEL as bought and operated cannot be said to have shown significant improvement over what Nigel offered. Both in terns of OPERATIONS and PROFITABILITY.

    • Emmanuel

      December 21, 2020 at 3:00 am

      This is so true. There was no justification to privatize MTEL and other very viable assets of NITEL, except her landlines. Greedy politicians simply saw an opportunity to hijack a good business to serve their personal interests. How do you sell an ultramodern network that was light years ahead of her piers. 0704 was warming up to be the AT&T of Africa, way ahead of MTN, ECONET, etc. In MTEL’s 0704, ERICCSON built a 5G ready network then. So much evil has been done to our people by utterly wicked people. More research is needed to expose the evil that was done to our people and our national security with the hijack of NITEL.

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Exclusives

Best performing Mutual Funds in January 2021

According to data from the SEC, 49.2% of the 118 registered funds recorded positive growth in January 2021

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Best Mutual Funds in Nigeria

Mutual funds are one of the fastest-growing asset classes in Nigeria, as data from the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), shows that 49.2% of the 118 registered funds recorded positive growth in January 2021.

A mutual fund is a type of financial vehicle made up of a pool of money collected from various investors, with the aim of investing them in securities like stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets.

According to SEC, a total of 118 mutual funds were registered as of January 29, 2021, with a net asset value of N1.57 trillion across several fund types.

Nairametrics tracked the performance of these mutual funds by comparing the fund prices as of 31st December, 2020 with the fund prices as of the last trading day of January 2021.

Below were the top-performing mutual funds in the month of January 2021. We also highlighted their performance in terms of changes in net asset value and included profiles of the funds as described on their websites.

READ: Investors pump N7 billions into New Gold ETF


Lotus Capital Halal ETF – Lotus Capital Limited (Exchange Traded Fund)

The Lotus Halal Equity Exchange Traded Fund “LHE ETF” is an open-ended fund that tracks the performance of the NSE-Lotus Islamic Index (NSELII). It is designed to enable investors obtain market exposure to the securities of the constituent companies of the NSE-Lotus Islamic Index and to replicate the price and yield performance of the index.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N12.73

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N13.66

Return – 7.31%

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Ranking – Fifth

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Commentary: This is an Exchange Traded Fund by Lotus Capital Limited, which grew by 7.31% in the month of January. The fund also grew significantly by 51.7% in the year 2020, indicating that the fund is a delight to its investors. Also, the net asset value stood at N655.04 million as of 29th January, 2021, indicating 6.76% growth compared to N613.59 million recorded as of 31st December, 2020.

READ: Understanding how Mutual Funds and ETFs work in Nigeria

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Stanbic IBTC Aggressive Fund – Stanbic IBTC Asset Mgt. Limited (Equity Based Funds)

The Stanbic IBTC Aggressive Fund (SIAF), which was launched in June 2012, is an open-ended fund that invests a minimum of 60% of its portfolio in equities of companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and a maximum of 40% in fixed income securities. Notably, the expense ratio for the fund is 1.5%.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N2,525.55

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January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N2,713.93

Return – 7.46%

Ranking – Fourth

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Commentary: Stanbic IBTC Aggressive Fund is the second-best performing Equity-Based fund in the month of January, growing by 7.46% to stand at N2,713.93 as of 29th of January, 2021. The net asset value also grew by 7.43% to close at N340.8 million.

READ: DV Balanced Fund to become a Money Market Fund


FSDH Dollar Fund – FSDH Asset Management Ltd. (Fixed Income Funds)

This is an open-ended mutual fund that invests in US Dollar denominated Fixed Income Securities issued by Nigerian Sovereign and Corporate Entities. The objective of the fund is to provide customers with the opportunity to invest in dollar-denominated instruments. Meanwhile, the minimum amount required to invest in the fund is $1,000.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N415.1

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N447.7

Return – 7.85%

Ranking – Third

Commentary: The fixed income fund managed by FSDH Asset Management, recorded growth of 7.85% in January from N415.1 recorded as of the end of 2020 to stand at N447.7 at the end of January. The net asset value grew by 18.41% to close at N1.002 billion.


Paramount Equity Fund – Chapel Hill Denham Mgt. Limited (Equity-based Fund)

Paramount Equity Fund is Nigeria’s oldest mutual fund, which invests in a broad range of high-quality equities and fixed income securities. The fund aims to provide an investment vehicle that will enable unit holders to achieve consistent capital appreciation over a medium-to-long term.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N16.27

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N17.56

Return – 7.93%

Ranking – Second

Commentary: This is an Equity Based Fund managed by Chapel Hill Denham Management, which grew by 7.93% in the month of January 2021 to stand at N17.56 as of 29th of January 2021, while the net asset value grew by 8.22% to stand at N598.19 million.


Vantage Dollar Fund – Investment One Funds Management (Fixed Income Fund)

Vantage Dollar Fund is an open-ended Unit Trust Scheme by Investment One Funds. The Fund seeks to provide investors with a bias for Dollar denominated securities an access to such securities, which ordinarily would be inaccessible to them by virtue of the minimum amount typically required to make such investments.

December 31st, 2020

Fund Price – N559.87

January 29th, 2021

Fund Price – N502.9

Return – 11.33%

Ranking – First

Commentary: This is the best performing mutual fund in the month of January 2021 and the only fund with a double-figure yield in the month under review. Vantage Dollar Fund grew by 11.33% to stand at N502.9 as of 29th of January 2021 while the net asset value also grew by 10.93%. This is quite an impressive performance as the fund primarily invests in Corporate and Sovereign Eurobonds.


 

Bubbling under……

The following funds make up the rest of the top 10 our list in ascending order:

AXA Mansard Equity Income Fund – AXA Mansard Investments Limited (Equity Based Fund)

Return – 6.69%

VETBANK ETF – Vetiva Fund Managers Limited (Exchange Traded Fund)

Return – 6.82%

PACAM Equity Fund – PAC Asset Management Limited (Equity Based Fund)

Return – 6.86%

Legacy Equity Fund – First City Asset Management (Equity Based Fund)

Return – 7.14%

VCG ETF – Vetiva Fund Managers Limited (Exchange Traded Fund)

Return – 7.16%

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Energy

Petrol now sells for N173/litre, as filling stations hoard products

Most of the stations visited now sell between N167/litre and N170/litre.

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Many filling stations across Lagos and Ogun States have increased the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called Petrol, from N161/litre to N173/litre.

Though the Federal Government has not officially increased the pump price, some marketers have increased the price while others decided to hoard the commodity, waiting for an official hike announcement.

This was disclosed in an investigation by Nairametrics. We found that most of the stations visited now sell between N167/litre and N170/litre.

While stations like Jof Petroleum, sell at N173/litre, NNPC (both in Magboro) sell at N167/litre and others like Conoil, Capital Oil, Lagos (all along Lagos-Ibadan expressway) have also increased their prices too.

READ: Ban on fuel distribution to border filling station begins to affect network providers 

One of the attendants, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the management of the station instructed them to adjust the meter, as the government is expected to increase the pump price soon.

She said, “We have been selling from two out of our five dispensers and that is not because we don’t have the product but because we don’t want to run out when the price is increased later.”

The manager of NNPC, which sells at N167/litre, said, “It is difficult for marketers to profitably sell at the approved pump price. We have been running at a loss before now, so it is important for us to make money as the cost of petrol would definitely increase soon.”

READ: DPR warns against hoarding of petroleum products by depot owners, threatens sanctions

It is difficult for us to make profit – Marketers

In a statement issued by the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chinedu Ukadike, he said, “We met as regards the emerging trend in the downstream supply of petroleum products. We had a Central Working Committee meeting last Wednesday where stakeholders looked at the trends.

“We were able to look at some of the policies and the introduction of e-payments by PPMC and the challenges therein, as well as the issue of buying products from other private depots and the profiteering in that section.”

According to him, it is not possible to sell at the government approved pump price of N162 to N165/litre at filling stations, because it will be difficult for marketers to make any amount of profit selling at such price.

READ: Oil marketers advise government on how to curb smuggling of petroleum products

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What you should know

  • On the other hand, NNPC has insisted that there won’t be any increase in February, adding that the development is due to the rise in the price of crude oil in the international market.
  • According to NNPC, the decision was to allow ongoing engagements with organised labour and other stakeholders to be concluded as regards an acceptable framework that would not expose Nigerians to hardship.

Though the NNPC claims not to have increased ex-depot price, private depot owners have raised their prices.

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Also, while it is only some stations that have increased their prices, it is expected that the cost of the commodity will definitely rise in other outlets in a few days.

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