Court sacks 9mobile interim board

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Efforts by Barclays Africa to sell Nigeria's fourth carrier, 9mobile has hit the rocks as a Lagos court has sacked the interim board headed by a deputy governor in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

One of the investors in the telco, Spectrum Wireless which owns 17.5per cent shares, said its interest and that of two other non bank shareholders were not taken care of in the process leading to the offer of the telco for sale.

Specifically, solicitors to Spectrum Wireless, J.A. Achimugu & Co and Dr R. O. Atabo & Co, all Kaduna based, lamented that  their client invested $35million in Etisalat since 2009, adding that no profit was declared while the principal sum remains unaccounted for.

Principal Counsel, Dr Reuben Atabo, in a telephone interview accused the management of Etisalat of dishonesty, stressing that his client as shareholders, were not carried along as the management went behind to raise loans from a consortium of local lenders.

Dr Atabo said his client needed their investment adding that it was the basis for going to court to get a vacation of the ex parte order that was granted last year that formed the basis on which the interim board was constituted ab initio.

With this development, efforts to sell the sick telco that had some 20million customers have been truncated.

Globacom, Airtel, Smile Communications and two others are the five firms, from the initial pack of about 20,  jostling to acquire the telco. Barclays Africa which is in charge of the drive to sell the telco had applied for an extension of time to January 16 this year to get the final bid from the five firms in the race. December 31 last year was initially fixed by the NCC for the completion of the exercise.

Dr Atabo accused the NCC of failing to take cognisance of the marginalisation of non bank shareholders despite writing letters to that effect to the regulator.

Sector analyst however faulted Dr Atabo's claim, arguing that had the regulator not moved in when it did with the CBN, the telco would have been placed under receivership by the lenders, a development that would have hurt not only its subscribers, workers but also the economy.

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