9Mobile: Olusanya Visits NCC, Seeks Concession on Spectrum Allocation, Interconnect Rates

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Emma Okonji

The Chief Executive Officer of 9Mobile, Mr. Boye Olusanya, on Monday led a team of senior management staff of 9mobile to visit the telecoms industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), where he demanded that special consideration be granted 9mobile in the areas of spectrum allocation, interconnect rates, data floor price, concessional foreign exchange access, among others.
According to Olusanya, the concession, if granted, would help the telecoms company to shore up its revenue and meet its financial obligations accordingly.

“We are asking for concessions especially in the areas of spectrum assignment, revisit of data floor price, review of interconnect rates to asymmetric platform, concessional foreign exchange access, national roaming and others, in order for 9mobile to shore up its revenue and meet its financial obligations accordingly,” Olusanya pleaded with NCC.

The demand for concession is not unconnected with the financial crisis that rocked the operations of the telecoms company in recent times, which it is however making efforts to come out of.

9mobile had in 2013, under the old brand name, Etisalat Nigeria, obtained a bank loan of $1.2 billion for network upgrade and expansion, but ran into brick walls when it could not repay the loan, citing economic downturn of 2015-2016 and naira devaluation, which negatively impacted on the dollar-denominated component of the loan.

The former Etisalat Nigeria had to write its creditors informing them of its intention to halt the installment repayment of the loan until such a time that it was able to raise more money.

Disturbed by its inability to repay the loan, the banks threatened to take over the operations of the telecoms company, which compelled the NCC to intervene in order to save the situation.

Commending 9mobile for surviving the storm, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, while also receiving the management team of the telecoms company, said NCC took the interest of investors, subscribers and employees of the telecoms company into consideration to align with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in order to resolve the issues of 9mobile and the consortium of 13 banks.
According to Danbatta, “The over $2 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), by Mubadala Investment Company of United Arab Emirates (UAE) was hanging, while 20 million subscribers and over 2,000 workers would have been affected if we did not intervene in the matter with a view to finding an amicable resolution.

“Resolving the issue was also partly to forestall any form of disincentive to the FDI. If the company had gone under, this would have created a social problem especially with the job of over 2,000 Nigerians on the line, and such a situation was capable of creating security challenges for the country,” Danbatta said.

He further stated that NCC collaborated with the CBN to avert a looming economic disaster, adding: “We want to see a viable and thriving 9mobile and we want to cooperate with you so that things can move seamlessly and be successful.”
Danbatta further assured the 9mobile team of the commission’s cooperation to grow its network.