Emma Okonji
In a move aimed at resolving its debt crisis and attracting new investors, Etisalat Nigeria Tuesday announced the reconstitution of an interim board and executive management, naming Mr. Boye Olusanya as its new Managing Director/CEO.
Olusanya was the former Deputy Managing Director of Celtel, which now operates as Airtel Nigeria, after its acquisition by India’s Bharti Airtel.

Etisalat also named Dr. Joseph Nnanna, an economist and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as the new chairman of its board.
THISDAY had exclusively reported that the CBN, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the lending banks and Etisalat’s management were in a meeting yesterday to appoint new directors and executive management team to run the affairs of the company.

The reconstitution of the board was sequel to the resignation of Etisalat’s former Emirati directors and Nigerian chairman, Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie, as well as its ex-CEO Mr. Matthew Willsher and former CFO Mr. Olawole Obasunloye, over the company’s inability to repay a $1.2 billion loan owed 13 Nigerian banks.
Its former Non-executive Directors (NEDs) represented the interests of their United Arab Emirates-based parent companies – Mubadala Development Company and Emirates Telecoms Group Company’s (Etisalat Group) – and Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services (EMTS), representing the Nigerian shareholders.

Etisalat Group, which held 45 of the shares in Etisalat Nigeria and 25 per cent of the preference shares, has since relinquished its stake in the Nigerian telco over the debt crisis that had the Nigerian lenders baying for blood.
THISDAY gathered that the spree of resignations was meant to pave way for the unhindered restructuring of the telecoms company, following Etisalat’s inability to repay the loans it took for network expansion and upgrade.

Other members of the new board include former National Senior Partner, KPMG Professional Services, Mr. Oluseyi Bickersteth; former Managing Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Mr. Ken Igbokwe; and Mrs. Funke Ighodaro, who has been appointed the new CFO of Etisalat Nigeria.

According to insider information, the five-man board was carefully appointed by all parties – CBN, the banks and Etisalat shareholders – involved in the restructuring of the telco.
On the five-man board, CBN was given the chairmanship slot, the shareholders were given one slot for an NED, while the banks got three slots (CEO, CFO and an additional NED).

In a statement released yesterday, Etisalat Nigeria confirmed that as a result of the restructuring efforts, a new board has been constituted.
According to the statement, “The consortium of lenders, working with the regulators, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria, is committed to the on-going efforts to restructure the company towards a path of long-term success of the business, and the appointment of a seasoned board of directors and top management is a testament to this.

“The decisions reached so far reflect the high confidence all the stakeholders have in the continued viability and sustainability of the business.
“The smooth transition is also proof of management’s commitment to ensuring that the operations of the company run seamlessly, and customers continue to enjoy superior network quality and positive customer experience.
“Etisalat Nigeria remains committed to continuously serving our subscribers, through the provision of innovative products and services with its committed staff, partners and vendors to empower the needs of our customers and improve their experience on the network.”

The NCC also issued a statement yesterday, supporting the restructuring exercise in Etisalat.
The Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, in the statement, said: “The commission is pleased to note that Etisalat and its creditors have successfully reached an amicable resolution of key issues pertaining to its indebtedness and that a smooth transitional process is currently ongoing on mutually agreed terms.

“The commission is confident that the amicable resolutions reached by the parties will further strengthen Etisalat’s capacity to continue to provide services to its over 20 million customers and to fulfil its obligations to its other stakeholders as a going concern, regardless of any changes that the parties have agreed to Etisalat’s ownership, its board and/or its executive management.

“We further wish to assure that as empowered by the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, the commission will continue to work assiduously with all industry stakeholders to ensure that the Nigerian telecommunications industry remains capable of playing its critical role as a key driver of national socio-economic development.
“NCC is mindful of the need to sustain the industry’s significant contribution to national GDP, employment and infrastructure roll-out at all times.

“The commission’s intervention in the matter was informed by these considerations, and we are pleased with the success of the ongoing process.
“The commission also wishes to acknowledge the pivotal role of the Central Bank of Nigeria in resolving the matter in a manner that protects the interests of all stakeholders, especially the creditor banks and Etisalat’s customers.”