ALTON sues National Assembly

Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has instituted a legal action in court seeking interpretation of the provisions of the constitution on the extent of the National Assembly (NASS)’s oversight functions on Telecommunications Companies.

Engr, Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, ALTON who disclosed this in Lagos, said that ALTON members have been inundated with incessant summons from different committees of the NASS served on their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to appear before several National Assembly (NASS) Committees, which negatively impact on ability to focus on their business operations.

“The NASS’ insistence on attendance of CEOs at such session is without consideration of these CEOs reasonable schedule conflict or the fact that other senior management staff may be better versed and suited due to the nature of their job roles vis-a-vis the subject matter of investigation.

“For instance, the Ad-Hoc Committee set up by the House of Representatives to investigate the Health Implications of Telecommunications Towers in residential buildings, called for public hearings on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th April, 2017, at which the industry was supposed to be represented by ALTON, but the Committee, insisted that each operator make its own presentation.

“There were further hearings on Tuesday, 25th April and 8th and 23rd May 2017. However, at those Hearings the Committee insisted that it would only grant audience to the CEOs of the Companies and no other representative, in spite of technical knowledge and seniority of such representatives.

Adebayo noted that some of the investigative duties of the different committees overlap and require similar information from the attendees.

“For instance, members are summoned by both the standing Committee on Telecoms and its Ad-hoc Committee on Operational activities of Telecoms Equipment and Service Providers both investigating loss of revenue to the Federal Government.

“The Committee on telecoms is also investigating loss of jobs which the Committee on Labour also summons members in respect of. The Committee on Telecoms also served summons for investigation by its Adhoc Committee for Value Added Services and Committee investigating locally manufactured skills.

“Apart from the duplication of effort by the Committees, the manner of invitation borders on harassment of our members as the invitations are sometimes scheduled on the same day leading to conflict or scheduled back to back for 3 to 4 days, which will necessitate member CEOs being away from their businesses for such long periods,” he said.

He added that, some of the requested information border on information within the purview of specific government agencies which the NASS could easily request the agencies to provide, such information as evidence of Tax remittances to government since inception of members operations, which could date as far back as sixteen (16) years; or confidential information which members should not be obliged to provide e.g. list of all employees and current remuneration package of these employees.

The association is praying the court to determine among others, the extent of the NASS’ oversight functions as it relates to private companies and particularly, Telecommunications Companies being private companies;

Extent of the NASS’ oversight functions with respect to private companies and particularly, Telecommunications companies which are already subject to regulatory oversight by regulators;

Specific nature of information which the NASS can lawfully request from private companies including Telecommunications Companies, and whether it includes companies’ confidential information and information within the purview of government agencies;

Specific nature of directives that can be made by NASS pursuant to the outcome of their investigative activities;

Declaration on the proprietary of the NASS to issue these summons and insist that our members are represented by their CEOs and not senior management representatives whose job function deal with the subject matter of investigation; and

An order restraining the NASS from serving any further summons on Telecommunication Companies pending the determination of the action