Globacom's contractors threaten litigation over debts
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
Contractors handling Globacom Nigeria “Glo” Radio Frequency (RF) installations across the country are gearing up for a showdown with the telco over her inability to offset debts spanning several years, investigations have shown.
The contractors spoke to reporters in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
Since commencement of its operations in the country in August 2003, Glo has soared high in its aspiration to build Africa’s biggest and best telecommunications network with millions of subscribers in Nigeria, Republic of Benin and Ghana.
However, some of the companies contracted by the GSM operator to handle the RF installations contracts across Nigeria are not happy that Glo has failed in its obligation to pay them as projects stalled.
Their problem was compounded by the fact that at Glo, RF contractors are usually paid at the same time through a cumbersome and lengthy process with unpredictable outcomes.
There have been formal and informal meetings between representatives of the RF contractors and Glo to resolve the debt issue but it has remained unresolved till date.
According to the contractors, the last meeting with Globacom was in October 2017, and the purpose was to clarify their outstanding debts and Glo has not reverted back to the RF Contractors since then.
Confirming this, the Managing Director of RFM Network Services Ltd, Engineer Uzoechi Fabian, lamented that his firm has been reeling under the crushing debt.
He said: “The debt has caused us financial losses and it seriously affected company cash flow. All the Globacom projects were executed with company funds upfront.
“We are talking about inability to pay staff salaries. Staff turnover was very high because of delays in Globacom payment.”
Conquertel Services Limited is another company contracted by Globacom to handle RF installations across the country in 2011.
The Managing Director of Conquertel, Mr. Boniface Monday, said: “For us as a company this was a major achievement and an opportunity to contribute to the overall success of Globacom as the only indigenous GSM company operating in Nigeria.
“Payment for jobs executed for two years ( 2011 and 2012) were prompt as we got our money as at when due. With this positive impression created we continue executing jobs for Glo only to be shocked by Globacom’s refusal to pay for these sites in Edo, Rivers, Cross River, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Benue, Abuja, and others completed over four years now.
“As we speak, Globacom is owing my company a huge sum for some installations carried out between 2012 and date without any effort from them to offset it.”
“As a result of this debt, my company was unable to pay office rent thereby losing our office space at Allen Avenue, Ikeja Lagos, pay workers’ salaries leading to retrenchment of workers and we have to partially shut down our business operation due to lack of operating capital to stay afloat, life have been so difficult for us.
Also voicing his disappointment with Glo’s delays over the payment, the Managing Director of Zimak, Mr. Maurice Oguh, said: “I wish to confirm that Glo has not paid our company for the RF installations we undertook for them. Some of these sites were installed in 2012 and 2013.
“Some are 50%, while others are 100% pending. And this has had an adverse effect on our Company. It has made it difficult to meet our obligation to our staff and creditors even to the government; with many of our staff laid off”.
The Executive Director, Chalda Integrated Communication Services, Engineer Aloy Madu, lamented that the debt has been hanging since 2006. “We started since 2006 and our project location is nationwide and Globacom Nigeria Ltd is owing us for the past four years.
“It has affected our families and led to layoff of workers; some workers are dead today because of this debt. We are appealing to the federal Government to prevail on Globacom company to pay us our money.”
Appeal to NCC, congress, other stakeholders
The Managing Director of Global Access Technologies, Dr Anthony Nwosu, who is also the First Vice President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) whose firm is also owed by Globacom, lamented that the issue of huge debts in the telecoms industry has been a major source of concern to ATCON.
“These debts pose gargantuan risk to the operations and survival of firms in the industry, especially the local service providers. For instance, the debt crisis with Value Added Services (VAS) has lingered for long and the VAS providers have been complaining about the negative impact of the debt burden on their business.”
He stated that ATCON might organise a stakeholders' summit on the issue of crippling industry debts if things remain the way they are.
He further urged the National Assembly, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and other well-meaning Nigerians to seriously look into the issue of industry debts vis-à-vis the survival of local service providers and possibly come up with a framework for addressing the problem.
He advised the management of Glo to consider the plight of the RF contractors.
“We want all authority concerned to prevail on Globacom to honour the letter of contracts for these jobs. We also call on all media houses and platforms both traditional and social to help keep our plight on front burner until Globacom do the needful. We appeal to the National Assembly to intervene,” one of them who simply identified himself as Mr. Monday said.
Efforts to get the reaction of the telco proved futile as the organisation does not have any official designated to attend to media enquiries. Nobody in Public Affairs Department of the telco was ready to speak on the issue as they all said “I do not have authority to speak to the press.”