The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) , Prof. Umar Dambatta has assured that new investors expected to take over 9mobile telecommunications will pay all outstanding debts, including the N1.1bn spectrum band fee to the federal government.
The House of Representatives committee on Telecommunications mandated the commission to submit copies of CAC registration form of Etisalat, financial audit of the company from 2011 to date, and the report of the Task Force set up to conduct the health status of all the telecommunication companies for further legislative action. The committee is investigating public the circumstances which led to the collapse of Etisalat in 2017.
Dambatta who was represented at the investigative hearing by a National Commissioner, Mr. Sunday Dare, maintained that the Commission does not interfere with non-licensee as provided in the extant law. Chairman of the committee, Hon Saheed Akinade-Fijabi during the investigative hearing insisted that former members of the Etisalat musst appear before the Committee to assist in unravelling the remote and immediate cause of the collapse.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 17 bidders expressed interests in the transaction which commenced on 7th September, 2017; following the exit of core investors into Etisalat. Managing Principal of Barclays Africa, Hasnea Varawalla, disclosed this during theinvestigative hearing.
According to him, Barclays Africa had on the 26th January, 2018 met with the two selected top bidders to finalize the structuring of the transaction, adding that 26th February 2018 for the bidders to conclude and sign the transaction documents after due approval by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Some of the lawmakers who expressed concerns over petitions on the transaction which was not publicized in the national dailies as contained in the public procurement Act, argued that the ongoing transactions may result into litigations.
Akinade-Fijabi noted that failure to conduct due diligence may result into series of litigation after the take-over of the company by other aggrieved parties including those who pulled out over alleged “hidden things”, just as he warned on the need to ensure adhere to international best practices in the bid to avert eventual take-over by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
The lawmakers also frowned at the failure of the Financial Adviser to conduct independent due diligence into the financial status of the company and other stakeholders’ interest. In his intervention, Diri Douye (PDP-Bayelsa), member of the Committee who frowned at the earlier submission of NCC that it was not involved in the ongoing financial process, warned that misleading the Parliament attracts five years imprisonment without option of fine. On his part, Kehinde Odeneye (APC-Ogun) queried the rationale behind non-placement of adverts and alleged disregard for other creditors apart from the consortium of banks. While responding to the issues raised by the lawmakers, Varawalla explained that all the parties involved in the Syndicate Owners (consortium of banks) unanimously agreed that the transaction should be closed and extended to the best investors across the world. The Barclays representative added that all the parties involved in the ongoing transaction were given opportunity to interface with the creditors and aware of the amount owed Federal Government to the tune of N1.14 billion. In a swift reaction to his submission, the lawmakers argued that the funds invested into the telecom firm as well as the banks belong to over 20 million Nigerian subscribers, stressing that such as guided transaction fell short of extant laws.
On his part, Ahmed Abdullahi, CBN Director of Banking and Supervision, disclosed that the 13 consortium of banks had N130 billion exposure to the troubled Etisalat, hence the resolve for the apex bank’s intervention. According to him, the resolve to place Etisalat on receivership was the last resort, adding that the UAE investors who pulled out of the company failed to honour their promise to inject $500 million at a meeting midwived by the CBN. He added that the $500 million ought to be escrowed in CBN pending the conclusion of the terms of payment of loans to the consortium. He also denied knowledge of the sum of $2 billion allegedly invested by the UAE investors into Etisalat before its eventual collapse.