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Gov Ishaku Dragged To EFCC, Residents Divided Over Plot To Sell Mambilla Tea Company

Controversies have continued to trail moved by the Taraba State Government under the leadership of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku to privatize the biggest tea plantation in West Africa, Mambilla Beverages company, producers of popular Highland Tea.

Mambilla Beverages and Company Limited which was moribund was revamped by Governor  Ishaku in his first term in office which now has markets within and outside the state through many efforts that was put in place.

Members of the Host Communities in  Kakara area of Mambilla Plateau in Sardauna Local Council and Concern Staff of Mambilla Beverages Nigeria Limited has forwarded a petition to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission  EFCC accusing  Governor Ishaku of planning to divert the state owned Tea Factory to personal use through the privatization exercise.

In the petition sighted by our reporter, the workers and Host Communities claimed that the Tea Factory is worth over Four Billion Naria is planned to be sold for N300 Million by the Governor, while faulting the entire privatization plans.

 They alleged that the State Government had set up a committee to start negotiating with a company close to the Governor who is expected to buy the Tea factory at the sum of N300m and resell it to the Governor.

A former chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Taraba State chapter, Jonah Kataps, however cautioned the Darius Ishaku-led government against selling the Mambilla Beverages company, describing it as the people's heritage.

He challenged the government to single out any project sited in the local council since Ishaku came on board as governor.


"If this government wants to sell the Highland Tea, it should show us one thing it did in Sardauna in over seven years to guarantee that selling the company will be beneficial to the people.


"We will not allow that. I will challenge whoever is contemplating this idea to declare the revenue the company made from the sale of that product in over seven years," he said.


According to Kataps, individuals and corporate bodies have been queuing up for months, trying to get the Highland Tea, which he described as "one of the best in the world."


Another resident of Mambilla, Wayas Militus said the people  are not against privatization of the company but "we want it after the elections and the process must be extremely transparent in a way any investor can compete favourably to buy into the company, we are only against those in power taking over our common property as their own, the right process must be followed.


"This Tea company is the major source of livelihood in our community and we must be carried along effectively if government want to sell it, our interest as workers, tea farmers must be adequately protected moreso there is no concrete reasons for selling the company, so government should abolish the plan to sell the only viable industry in the state."

Speaking during an interview on the first private radio station in Taraba State Rock FM 92.3 Jalingo, the Group Managing Director of Taraba investment and properties Limited, Mr Iliya Ezekiel said the government is privatizing the Tea Company in order to sustain its gains of revitalizing the company five years ago.

"The government plans to sell about 70% of its investment while the government would retain 30% stake in the company. Governor Ishaku revived the company five years ago and government has no business in doing business, so the government wants to bring in private people to sustain the gains achieved after the company was rescued by this administration."

A statement earlier released by Mr Iliya Ezekiel titled Sensitization On The Proposed Privatization Of Mambila Beverages Nig Limited note that the Mambila Beverages Nig. Limited is solely owned by the Taraba state Government.


"Accordingly, in order to improve profitability, productivity, efficiency and job opportunities for the benefits of Tarabans, the state Government is proposing to privatize the company to ensure proper and efficient management devoid of Government interference and bureaucracies.


"The state Government shall also ensure that the internet of the workers and the host community are adequately protected within the confines of the Law in the privatization process.


"The general public is also advised to disregard any rumours that Mambila Beverages (Nig) Limited belongs to a particular community. These are rumours by mischief maker's aimed at creating dissatisfaction and raising unnecessary tension amongst members of the unsuspecting public,"  the statement reads.

A Privatisation Expert and CEO Taraba Business School Olayinka Gabriel faulted  the timing of the privatization of the company  and its method of sales.


"The timing is wrong, every privatisation face post privatisation Challenges, if the Governement wanted to do that it should have been three to four years ago, to enable the same Governement  that did the privatisation to resolve all post privatisation Challenges, you can privatise a company few month to your exist and leave another Governement to face the post privatisation Challenges


"The best method of Privatisation is Public offer, leading to IPO, in which every member of the public is given the opportunity via Nigeria stock exchange market to acquire the company, the method that is proposed by Taraba Investment is called private Placement, this method give some powerful individuals who has the money or privilege to acquire the company, private placement has not Succeed in Nigeria."

Speaking on Rock FM 92.3 Jalingo, Olayinka argued that "before any privatization you need to have done atleast five years audited financial report of the company you are privatizing, and since the company in question is a public ENTERPRISE, such report will have been made available to the public at least six month before the commencement of Privatization exercise.

" You cannot conduct privatization of a company  without such magnitude without first setting up a committee of expert, for them to come up with a details Report the company asset, and liabilities, Mambila Beverages  goes beyond just the tea factory alone. You don't sell what you have not valued, valuation help you to know the worth of what you are selling, you don't take a car to the market for sell without first knowing the value of the car you are selling.

A. What's the cost of Tunga DM? What's the cost of hydro power in Tunga? What's the cost of laying pipes from Tunga to Bagoba 1&2? What's the cost of the land 720 hectares? what's the cost of the equipment and  heavy duty machines?






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