…Licence not transferable –NCC
By Amechi Ogbonna and Olabisi Olaleye
The consortium of 13 banks involved in Etisalat Nigeria’s $1.2 billion loan syndication on Wednesday called on the Federal Government to investigate the management of Etisalat, alleging the fund may have been looted.
A management source close to the banks said in Lagos that the banks want the government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to wade into the matter by investigating what the company did with the loan it got from the banks.
The source alleged that the loans were siphoned and needed to be investigated by the EFCC, noting there was no proof of what the company did with the loan.
It said the affected banks had rolled out several viable options to Etisalat for the loan to be restructured, but these was rejected by the company.
The source said the banks were not into telecommunications and had no intention of running Etisalat.
“All we want is to recover the loans; we cannot write off the loans as being demanded by Etisalat because the company is viable,” the source said.
The source said the telecoms company wanted the banks to write off the loan as non-performing, which was rejected because the company is doing well.
According to it, the company wants injection of new capital and this has been suggested to the majority shareholder.
It urged the government to investigate the matter with all seriousness, to dig out the truth.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the operating license issued to Etisalat cannot be transferred without its approval.
Etisalat, Nigeria’s fourth largest mobile network had transferred control of the company to a consortium of banks after a failed debt repayment talks. The banks, which include Access Bank, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, FirstBank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Stanbic IBTC, EcoBank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, among others, said they would take over Etisalat’s operations through its legal representative, United Capital Trustees.
A statement by Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, NCC, assured customers of the network that it would do everything within its powers to ensure that they continue to enjoy services provided by the operator.
“The attention of the commission has been drawn to the planned takeover of Etisalat by a consortium of banks.
“As a result of this planned action, the commission wishes to state that it is aware of the indebtedness of Etisalat to the consortium of banks.
“In conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), we mediated by holding several meetings with the banks, Etisalat and other stakeholders with a view to finding a resolution. Regrettably these meetings did not yield the desired results.
“The NCC wishes to reassure the over 21 million Etisalat subscribers that it will do all within its regulatory power to ensure that Etisalat subscribers continue to enjoy the services provided by the operator.
“The commission has taken proactive steps to cushion the impact of the takeover, this is without prejudice to the ongoing effort between Etisalat and the banks towards a negotiated settlement.
“In view of the recent development, NCC wishes to reassure all stakeholders in the telecommunications sector, and in particular the subscribers on the Etisalat network that the commission will ensure that the integrity of Etisalat Network is not compromised.
“Accordingly, the commission has drawn the attention of the banks to provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 Section 38: Sub section 1 – The grant of a licence shall be personal to the licensee and the licence shall not be operated by, assigned, sub licensed or transferred to another party unless the prior written approval of the commission has been granted.
Earlier yesterday, a top management staff at Etisalat Nigeria had told Daily Sun that the telco has already repaid over 50 per cent of its loan and only has N165 billion to offset (about $500 million) contrary to news in public sphere about its indebtedness.
The staff who pleaded anonymity said the actual outstanding on Etisalat’s loan is N165 billion. “This is in view of the fact that Etisalat has efficiently serviced the $1.2 billion loan up until earlier this year when discussions with the banks regarding the repayment restructuring commenced. I can confirm to you in confidence that the company has made repayment of over 50 per cent of the original loan so far.”