James Emejo in Abuja
Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee investigating the operational activities of telecommunications equipment and service companies/vendors in Nigeria, Hon. Ahmed Abu (APC, Niger) yesterday summoned the chief executives of mobile telecommunications companies to either appear before it on Wednesday or incur the wrath of the legislators.
Those affected include the chief executives of MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd; Globacom Ltd; Airtel Nigeria, Emerging Markets Telecoms Services Ltd; NATCOM Development & Investment; HUAWEI Technologies Co. Nig Ltd.
Also summoned to appear on Wednesday are the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler and the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC).
At the commencement of the three-day investigative hearing yesterday, which was declared open by the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, the committee was compelled to issue a stern warning to all the invited companies after it realised that the heads of the instructions had failed to turn up- and those who claimed to have represented them do not have letters backing their claims.
A few firms were not even represented.
Among other things, the ad-hoc committee is trying to unravel allegations of tax evasion and avoidance amounting to about N143.43 billion which is subject to reconciliation.
However, Abu further directed the mobile telecommunications companies to provide additional information on the five percent value-added tax (VAT) charge currently introduced on recharge cards.
He said while the committee would not preempt the outcome of its investigations, the relevant heads of institutions must appear and reconcile available figures or provide useful documents with which it could successfully accomplish its task.
He said the probe was not meant to create panic in the markets but rather strengthen relevant Acts of the parliament wherever there are loopholes for corruption.
The chairman added that there had been attempts to redirect the attention of the committee from its major focus through dubious publications in online news portals and vowed not to succumb to either pressure or blackmail.
Members were particularly angered by the failure of the heads of invited companies to turn up- and giving baseless excuses when the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta (who regulates the telecoms operators) was physically present at the hearing.
A member of the committee, Hon. Timothy Golu said some companies deliberately give false impressions that their chief executives were unavailable.
However, the Speaker, represented by the Majority Whip, Hon. Ado Alhassan (APC, Kano) urged the invitees to cooperate with the committee in its investigations adding that it’s incumbent on companies operating in the country to conduct their businesses in line with the constitution, relevant laws as well as rules and regulations governing the industry in which they do business- bearing in mind, the present administration’s zero tolerance for tax evasion.