Following the ongoing restructuring exercise at Etisalat Nigeria, the board of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has stressed the need for the new management of the embattled Mobile Network Operator (MNO) to ensure the integrity of the company’s financial and technical standards.
The board of the telecoms regulator, at an emergency meeting held recently in its Board Room, called for caution in the transition phase of the company. According to the board, all efforts must be geared towards ensuring that the over 21 million Etisalat subscribers do not experience hiccups. Similarly, the board said that jobs must be safeguarded and stability of the sector must be enthroned while the development at the Etisalat Nigeria is being carefully managed.
This note of caution was the outcome of the board’s meeting. The board had met to appraise the dimension of issues at Etisalat Nigeria which had recently cracked under the weight of failure to service its debts to a consortium of banks in Nigeria. The development had also forced the foreign equity owner Mubadala Group of the United Arab Emirate to divest its shareholding in the company by transferring its shares to a trust company.
Worried by the sudden turn of events at Etisalat Nigeria, even after the spirited efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the NCC to salvage Etisalat Nigeria, the board of the NCC had expressed need to exercise restraints in order to safeguard the employees’ jobs and stabilize the telecom sector from losing its growing contributions to the GDP.
Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, chairman of the board, said that the new management holding sway at Etisalat NIgeria must ensure that financial and technical integrity standards are the priority for the telcos.
In a statement by NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, the telecoms regulator was determined to ensure that the workforce is protected and the impact of the current crisis does not negatively impact the Nigerian economy.
The board’s stance is not surprising as pundits were quick to attribute the divestment of Mubadala of UAE to breaches in the company’s corporate governance standards. Whilst NCC’s board position calling for the enthronement of corporate governance code would seem a life line, company information, signed by the embattled Vice President, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs at Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko, countered this allegation insisting the telco was properly run.
The telecoms regulator’s board commended the cooperation and inter-agency collaboration exhibited by the apex bank as a fellow regulator and commended the NCC Management for its competent handling of the issue till date. The NCC board directed the telecoms regulator’s Management to ensure at all times that telcos meet the financial and technical integrity standards expected of them.
So far, the restructuring has led to the resignation of the pioneer Board Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, the only surviving shareholder in the embattled mobile operator currently embroiled in a $1.2 billion (about N377.4 billion) loan repayment crisis with a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks, led by Access Bank Plc.
Bello-Osagie, a former Chairman of UBA Plc, was the promoter of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, EMTS, which controlled 15 per cent of the equity holding of the company.
It will be recalled that the Commission launched a Code of Corporate Governance for the Telecommunications Industry in 2014 to voluntarily excite leading practices which aim at guiding corporate behavior and practices of companies within the industry.