We Are Not Afraid of Investigation, ALTON Tells Reps

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Emma Okonji

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has said that its members are not afraid of any investigation by the House of Representatives. The body said it carries out its duties legitimately without breaching the laws of the country.

The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, made the position of the association known, while reacting to a recent call by members of the House of Representatives for investigation into alleged diversion of monies meant to be paid into government coffers by telecoms operators in Nigeria.

The House of Representatives had announced that it was going investigate telecommunication operating companies in the country for allegedly defrauding the federal government of huge sums of monies that were supposed to be paid into government coffers to private pockets.

A member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Ayo Tajudeen, representing the Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituency of Kogi State, who raised the motion, explained that telecoms operators across board have been diverting payments meant for the federal government for their personal use, taking advantage of the loopholes in the telecoms regulatory system. He added that the House would soon begin investigation into the matter in order to uncover the unethical practices by telecoms operators in the country.

However, Adebayo absorbed ALTON of fraudulent any practice, insisting that telecoms operators are responsible citizens that fulfill all government’s obligations by way of paying fees that are supposed to be paid, as allowed by the law.

He however said the government should be blamed for allowing all manners of government agencies to impose multiple taxes on telecommunication operations in the country, of which he said complaints have been lodged in that respect to the federal government, and that the National Economic Council has alluded to that. “Therefore the plan to investigate telecoms operators for allegedly diverting government funds, does not arise, even though we are not afraid of any investigation because our hands are clean,” Adebayo said.

There is need for members of the House of Representatives to substantiate their claims, rather than making a media show of it, Adebayo added.
He advised the lawmakers to call stakeholders’ meeting to seek the views of telecoms operators rather than carrying out independent investigation.

He was of the view that should the lawmakers heed to his advice to call for stakeholders’ meeting, government would be shocked to discover that it is the agencies of government that are short-changing telecoms operators in the county through the imposition of multiple taxes that were not supposed to be in the first place, and not the other way round.

Adebayo wants the federal government to publish the amount of money paid by telecoms operators in the country since the inception of Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and that government would be amazed to know of the contributions of telecoms to national development.

“It is therefore not fair on the part of government to whip up public sentiments against telecoms operators who are law abiding and pay their taxes promptly and correctly,” Adebayo said.

Asked if the lawmakers had formerly written the association of their intention, Adebayo said the body is yet to receive any notification from the members of House of Representatives, apart from the ongoing case with one of its members who was alleged of diverting funds illegally outside the county. He explained that the matter is still being investigated. ‘’I strongly advised that such case should not be used to generalise issues affecting telecoms operators’’, he said.

He added: ‘’In whatever way the lawmakers want to carryout their investigation on telecoms operators for alleged diversion of funds meant for government, we are ready because our records are clean, in terms of payment of taxes, Adebayo insisted.’’