9mobile sale: NCC intervenes to sanitise process

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Amidst the disclosure of untidy handling of the bid for 9mobile and determined to salvage the deteriorating situation, telecoms industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has laid down rules of engagement that will ensure not only the transparent sale of 9mobile but also the sustenance of its business post sale.

The NCC rules of engagement are contained in a letter by its Governing Board signed by the Chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, to the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele.  The NCC letter is partly in recognition of the fact that 9mobile is indebted to a consortium of banks that are regulated by the CBN.  Both NCC and CBN have been collaborating to ensure the successful sale of 9mobile.

The letter espoused the three criteria that will guide the emergence of a preferred bidder for 9mobile.  The first is “that whichever company would quality as successful bidder to take over 9mobile has the technical competence apart from financial capability to turn round 9mobile and not further compound its problems”.

The second criterion is “that the successful bidder should come in with substantial funds (foreign exchange) to sustain the industry not just recycling funds facilities already within the economy”.  While the third insists “that the company that will take over should have adequate technical infrastructure on ground”.

The last criterion stemmed from NCC’s disavowal of the likelihood of the CBN being swayed by the creditor banks that “only focuses essentially on repayment of outstanding loans”.  NCC’s concern for the sustenance of 9mobile business post-sale is hinged on the need for “the continuity of the company for the betterment of the telecom industry, subscribers, labour force and the interest of Nigeria as a whole”. 

In advising CBN to take into consideration all the issues raised before recommending a preferred bidder to the Commission for approval, NCC restated its earlier stand in the press release of February 22, 2018, that “the NCC Board will not allow what happened to Etisalat to repeat itself.  Therefore, the Board will scrutinise the technical capability and pedigree of whatever company/companies are recommended as preferred bidders as regards their records in the immediate past three and five years before any of them is considered qualified to be issued a licence”.  The Commission’s stance, the letter affirmed, will safeguard 9mobile from collapse and help it to raise enough funds to clear the debts inherited from Etisalat.  Its stance it surmised “is in the overall best interest of the communication Industry, the shareholders, the subscribers, the labour force and the entire country”.

However, its insistence “that the company that will take over should have adequate technical infrastructure on ground” puts a question mark to the touted emergence of Teleology Holdings as the preferred bidder.  Teleology Holdings, as a special purpose vehicle for the acquisition of 9mobile, has no apparent infrastructure on ground.  Unlike its rival Smile Telecoms Holdings, which operates in key Nigerian cities and was announced as the reserved bidder, Teleology Holdings is neither operational nor has experience, as a company, in Nigeria.

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