Gov. Okowa’s Controversial Deal: Delta Govt Gives Reason For Selling Delta Line Equity Shares

Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) –By Albert OGRAKA: 

Not withstanding the controversy which raged between unions and Delta State Government over a concession plot of Delta Transport Services Limited, operators of Delta Line by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State Government has given reasons for its decision to sell part of its equity stake in the state owned transport company, saying that the company failed to be commercially viable.

The state government has therefore adduced the company’s nonviable nature, despite the continued injection of huge capital support into the only government-owned and branded transport company, as key reason for the sale of part of its equity stake in the transport company.

A statement signed by the Media Assistant to the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Sam Ijeh, revealed that the state government in the past invested heavily in the company through the provision of 160 brand new Toyota Hiace Buses, 76 brand new Toyota Corolla Cars and other incentives in cash or kind.

The Media Assistant, who noted that the Workers Union interference in the affairs of management did not help matters, disclosed further that “from 2012 to April 2015, the state government released monthly palliatives to the company to mitigate the effects of fuel-price increase which occurred at that time.”

The statement added that, “unlike others who benefitted from the allocation of the government buses, Delta Line never remitted any revenue to the state government, instead the company was riddled with debts made up of salaries and wages of staff, allowances and claims of staff, contractors, and suppliers obligations.

“In a bid to sanitize the company, government sacked the General Manager and suspended some other principal officers and directed the Directorate of Transport to supervise and oversee the activities of the company, with an inherited six-month salary debt.”

He stated that to stem the tide of further deterioration, the government opted for sale of part of its equity stake and this was duly advertised in national dailies for expression of interest and respondents submitted their bids plus necessary documents in line with due process following which the successful bidder was considered.

The statement disclosed that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) did not indicate interest at the time of advertisement and neither did it provide details of how it would source funds for the purchase of the shares to be sold, noting that the entire process followed due process and a memo was forwarded to the State Executive Council accordingly.

But the State Executive Council of the Union, had during its emergency meeting registered dismay over the concessioning plot by government without wide consultations with relevant stakeholders and the Labour unions.

Recall that the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) had a showdown with the Delta state government over its concluded plot to concession the state owned Delta Transport Services Limited, operators of Delta Line, following a public invitation for pre-qualification of bidders for the partial privatization of the transport outfit.

The state government, through the Ministry of Finance advertised for bidders, an action that angered the leadership of AUPCTRE who claimed that the union had been sidelined, despite its stringent moves to resist such plot in the past.

On Thursday, December 15, 2016, the Union’s leadership addressed the workers at the Delta Line workshop on the Asaba-Onitsha express way, threathenig a peaceful protest to halt the sale of up to 60 percent of the equity of Delta Line to the governor’s surrogates.

While addressing the aggrieved workers, the state chairman of AUPCTRE, Comrade Jerry Okousun, accompanied by members of the state and branch executives, said the Union was taken aback by government for the partial privatization, explaining that the concessioning of Delta Line to a private owner at 60 percent is an indirect plan for jobs lay-off which strongly indicates that the buyer with an upper hand would dictate the fate of the nearly 750 workers.

According to him, “Delta Line company presently pay a monthly wage bill of N26 million with an average Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of N42 million, adding that the
new management of Delta Transport Services Limited have made giant strides with prompt payment of workers’ salaries, gradual loan repayment to Zenith and Wetland banks, payment of contractors and cooperatives as well as prompt maintenance of vehicles and retrieving of vehicles used as collaterals.”

Although dependable sources had revealed that Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa’s notable kinsmen, Mr. Kingsley Emu (Commissioner for Economic Planning) and Mr. Lawrence Oshiegbu, former Rural Development Agency (RDA) boss in the state were involved in the buy-off which stands at 60/40 percent equity shares between the private investor and Delta state government respectively, the Delta state Commissioner for Economic Planning, Mr. Kingsley Emu denied his alleged involvement in thebuy-off.

Emu, while denying his interest in the buy-off, revealed that the company is near moribund because of poor management, adding that the move by the state government to sell Delta Line to a private investor was proper, in spite of fear for job losses.

Hear him: “I have no link whatsoever with Delta Line and I will never have any link with transportation business. We don’t need to waste money to pamper government businesses. Government has no business doing any business. That is a statement of fact. Where all of these businesses work, we know. We have continually subsidized that company (Delta Line). That company owes in excess of N200 million in terms of debt. That company is not professionally run. Before the advent of the Caretaker Committee today, that company was unable to pay their bills, salaries and debt, and as I speak to you they are still unable to pay those debts.

The Delta Transport Services Limited was incorporated over 25 years ago primarily as a transporter of passengers with nearly 750 workers, 38 terminals as well as a courier operation for the movement of goods and packages.

Verifiable facts have proved that successive governments may have been used Delta Transport Services Limited as financial drain pipe to loot the state treasury of its resources.

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Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) – 
E.I.C: Albert Eruorhe Ograka

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