By Eboagwu Austine N. Monday
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has given reasons as to why he sold off his shares in Integrated Logistics Services Limited (Intels).
He accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of destroying his “legitimate business that employed thousands of Nigerians.”
But top government sources told Daily Trust Monday night that the claim by Atiku was a tissue of lies, saying President Buhari had nothing to do with his travails.
Founded in 1982 as Nicotes Services Ltd, Intels is regarded as Nigeria’s largest logistics company. It provides comprehensive integrated logistics services for the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry.
Atiku was said to have sold his shares to Orleal Investment Group, the parent company of Intels, for various amounts totalling over $100 million in a deal that spanned two years.
A statement on Monday by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, confirmed the sale of the shares, saying the former vice president has redirected his investment to other sectors of the economy.
“Co-founder of Integrated Logistics Services Nigeria Limited (Intels), Atiku Abubakar, has been selling his shares in Intels over the years.
“It assumed greater urgency in the last five years because this government has been preoccupied with destroying a legitimate business that was employing thousands of Nigerians because of politics.
“There should be a marked difference between politics and business. Yes, he has sold his shares in Intels and redirected his investment to other sectors of the economy for returns and creation of jobs,” the statement read.
While some experts attributed Atiku’s plight to politics, others said since the whole activity of Intels revolves around a contract between some individuals or body corporate on one side and the government on the other, any of them can call it off if he feels uncomfortable with the arrangement.
Daily Trust reports that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had in September 2020 terminated a boats pilotage monitoring and supervision agreement that the agency had with Intels, saying that the contract was illegal.
The federal government earlier in April 2020 approved the recommendations of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar
Malami, breaking the near monopoly of Mr Atiku’s Intels in the handling of oil and gas cargoes in the country.
Malami had in a letter addressed to the NPA argued that the agreement, which had allowed Intels to receive revenue on behalf of NPA for 17 years was in contravention of the Nigerian Constitution, especially because of the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the government.
Intels, however, kicked against the termination of the agreement, describing the action as “preposterous” and highly injurious to Nigeria.
How transaction took 2 years
The latest assets sold off by Atiku is said to be worth $100 million or about N38.1 billion spanning a tranche transaction of two years.
Officials at Intels, which has its operational base at Onne Port in Rivers and in Lagos, said the deal was completed in December 2020, with Atiku exiting the company after he sold off his stake.
One of the officials who spoke in confidence said the stake was sold to Orleal Investment Group, the parent company of Intels, for $100m but in three tranches of $60m, $29m and $24.1m.
PDP blames Buhari
Reacting, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Trust in a telephone
chat on Monday that President Buhari’s policies were killing investment and the nation’s economy.
“Under President Buhari, all security, economic and social indicators have gone negative.
“The Buhari administration has not encouraged direct foreign investment and it has wrecked our economy.
“Why won’t Nigerians be fed up with the Buhari Presidency when under its watch, businesses have collapsed while over 60 million Nigerians have lost their means of livelihood due to obnoxious economic policies that scare away both domestic and foreign investors?
“So, if it comes to a point that people are now selling their investments, it is because of the poor economic policies of this administration.
“The Buhari administration is killing investment and this is having a very negative implication on the nation’s economy,” the
PDP spokesman said.
But the Secretary of the APC Caretaker Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, neither picked his call nor responded to a text message sent to him by our correspondent up to the time of filing this report.
Count Buhari out
A senior government official in one of the ministries on Monday dismissed the claim by Atiku that the government of President Buhari was destroying Intels because of politics.
The official wondered why the Wazirin Adamawa was raising the issue now when the sale of his seven per cent shares in Intels was not a new thing. The top government official queried the political colouration being given to a legitimate request to a company to pay tax and remit revenue collected on behalf of the government.
The senior official said: “The sale of Atiku’s seven per cent shares in Intels is not a new thing and I wonder why they are bringing it up now.
As far back as 2017, the chairman of the company, Gabriel Volpi, came to us in the ministry to say that he and their Italian partners had bought out Atiku’s shares and had taken full ownership of the company.
“The claim that President Muhammadu Buhari is political in dealing with the company is a lie.
“Nigerians know how the NPA under the present management fought to force Intels to remit revenues and pay taxes.
“What is politics in asking you to pay tax and remit revenue collected on behalf of the government?”
Another government official said everything they said would be misconstrued, adding they would give Atiku Abubakar the right answers at the appropriate time.
“But before then, if he had met his obligations nobody would fight him…If he has been responsive there is no way he
would be on the defensive,” he said.
‘Not our concern’
When contacted, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said it was not bothered by the exit of Atiku Abubakar from Intels. It also said the case with Intels was still in court.
The Assistant General Manager, Corporate Communication, Ibrahim Nasiru, said officials of NPA only read of the exit of Atiku Abubakar from Intels in the news and that the authority is not bothered.
“I can’t comment on the alleged exit of Atiku from Intels for certain reasons.
“One, the matter is an internal issue. Secondly, we only heard of it in the news. There is no official statement to that effect and lastly, the case with Intels is still in court.
“We can’t comment on it until the suite is determined by the court,” he added.
Some experts have allayed fears that the pullout of Atiku Abubakar from Intels may threaten investors’ confidence in the Nigerian business economy.
One of them who agreed to have his name on print is a Forensic Accountant and Managing Director at Qeeva Advisory Limited, Matthew Ogagavworia.
He said: “Unfortunately, Intels did not put much on the ground in its position on the withdrawal of Atiku.
“The government has alleged that Intels was collecting bills, which it was supposed to remit to the government, which it failed to do.
“Intels did not provide the public with any hard evidence on what they have paid or how they have paid.
“All we heard eventually from Intels was that the issues had been resolved, case closed.”
He said Atiku’s decision to sell his shares may be for reasons best known to the former vice president rather than what he termed a convenient excuse advanced in the public domain.
Ogagavworia said: “The action or decision of Atiku to sell his interest in Intels has no impact on investors’ confidence whatsoever.
“To anyone watching, it reinforces the fact that the authorities are alive to their responsibilities.”
But another expert who does not want his name mentioned said the federal government was not fair to Atiku.
“I am looking at the matter from a political perspective. Do you think the FG will force him out of the business if he were a member of the APC?
“Don’t you think they are just after him because of the 2023 elections? If I have my way, I would have advised the government to allow the
courts to decide on the issue instead of frustrating Atiku out of the ring,” he said.