Saturday, July 21, 2007
How to become Africa's richest man (part 2)
According to the Bureau of Public Enterprises, the agency charged with the sale of government owned business, Blue Star - a consortium made up of Dangote, Otedola and River State government -won the “competitive bidding” for these two prized national assets. First off, this is clearly not competitive as it has the hallmark of collusion and price fixing. Foremost, the make up of the consortium is questionable. Here we have Dangote teaming up with his strongest competitor to date (Otedola’s Zenon) to make a bid, thus eliminating any stronger competitor from the horizon in the absence of Mike Adenuga who is still on the run. In addition to this, acting in concert with the Rivers State government effectively neutralizes local agitation and assures government support especially since Odili (then Rivers State Governor) was the certified Prince of the PDP machinery in the South-South and given that Dangote to date is also the largest single contributor to the evil empire. Note that there is nothing illegal about any of these moves in the absence of regulation; in the presence of it however the consortium should have been disallowed from bidding solely on the ground of collusion and unfair advantage.
Furthermore, the BPE use of the term “competitive bidding” is highly questionable. For one, Blue Star Consortium never participated in the bidding process leading to the sale of the Kaduna Refinery. The shady process that led to its emergence is fraught with loopholes that any innovative businessman will exploit for unfair advantage which Dangote and Otedola clearly did. For example the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which was offered the right of first refusal in the KRPC, had offered $102 million for the firm. This, according to Chigbue (BPE Boss), could not match the reserve price. This in turn paved the way for Dangote to offer $160 million to buy the plant. The process was, however, not thrown open to a competitive process; the unsexy claim by Chigbue of synergy between owners of PHRC and KRPC makes her sound more like someone on the payroll of Blue Star than that of the Nigerian people for whom she should be seeking the most price for their property now on fire sale!