THE inability or refusal of the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) to enlist on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has again attracted officials of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) who stormed the handling company’s headquarters last Friday.
Officials of the bureau led by the Director of Post Privatisation, BPE, Mr. Ibrahim Chiroma Baba were in SAHCOL to enquire on why the company was yet to be enlisted on the floor of NSE, contrary to BPE Act, which stipulated five years for every government organisation that is privatised.
SAHCOL, which was a department under the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways was privatised in 2009, nine years ago and was supposed to have been offered to the public since 2014.
The Acting Managing Director, SAHCOL, Mr. Basil Agboarumi led the management team and BPE for a closed-door meeting after the officials of BPE had toured the facilities of the ground handling company taking pictures.
A source close to the meeting confided in our correspondent that rather than the 41 per cent expected to be owned by the Chairman of SAHCOL, Mr. Taiwo Afolabi while the remaining 51 per cent goes to the public, it was gathered that the Chairman reached an unclear agreement with BPE to sell only 20 per cent of the shares to the public and the staff while he retains the remaining 80 per cent.
The composition of the 20 per cent shares as proposed by the management indicated that 10 per cent would go to the workers of the company while the remaining 10 per cent would be sold to the public.
This move, it was learnt has not gone down well in the company as some of the management staff felt the mere 30 per cent proposed to be sold to the public if accented to by BPE would set a bad precedent not just in the industry, but in the country as a whole.
However, responding to the issues the spokesman for SAHCOL who incidentally was the acting managing director,Mr. Basil Agboarumi, confirmed the visit of BPE to the office but stressed no ripples were generated.
He said that SAHCOL was still under BPE supervision and at no time was a statement issued on whether or not the BPE was pleased.
According to him, the management was waiting for BPE to come up with modalities for the company to be enlisted into NSE.
“The BPE came in to come and see if the time has come for them to sign up and in signing up means we have to shed a percentage of the share to the public. The ball is now in their court, ” he said.
On the allegations of the shares percentage to be sold, he said
“The visit on Thursday is a follow-up to the DG BPE’s previous visit, we told them we are disposed to be in the stock exchange. And the BPE is very thorough and what they say to you is more important than what even us as stakeholders will say.”
“When you say stock exchange, they will work out the programs and modalities. As we speak now, SIFAX a has SAHCOL 100% but when the company goes to the stock exchange and is sold, it will make money.”
The meeting in the past had unions from National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), but they were exempted this time around.
The inside source said: “we already suspect shady deals in whatever the BPE is having with the current management of SAHCOL. First, the unions who were part of the privatisation process of the company were not informed of the coming of the BPE officials even when they have always been a part of their meeting in the past.
“The Chairman has been going to BPE in Abuja for months now, trying to tell them while the company could not be enlisted on the stock exchange nine years later. The Act of BPE stipulates that any government company that is privatised must be enlisted on the stock exchange five years later. That was what happened in the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, which was went to the stock within five years of privatisation, I don’t know why ours is different.
“The selling of just 20 per cent to the public doesn’t change anything. It’s a continuation of the old order. Mind you, there is even a way that they can manipulate the 20 per cent, which goes to the public and ensure that their cronies still get a large share from it.”
It would be recalled that the Director-General of BPE, Alex Okoh had visited SAHCOL last December on the same issue.
At the meeting, Okoh, had said that he was in the ground handling company for on-the-spot information on the processes of enlistment on the stock exchange by the management.
The unions at the meeting had insisted that the company should be privatized as stated, but two months later, BPE is yet to act on the process that would lead to enlistment on the stock.