House to Probe Etisalat’s Exit

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House of Representatives in session

DPR indicts CBN, NPDC over revenue loses
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), has said investigations will be extended to determine reasons why Etisalat Group exited the Nigerian market in a rather absurd manner.

Noting that companies “can’t just walk in and walk out just like” anywhere in the world, he said Etisalat’s exit could set a dangerous precedent in the telecommunications industry if something was not done.

He told THISDAY in an interview yesterday that former Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Hakeem Bello Osagie, has been invited to give evidence before the committee, alongside other telecommunications chief executives at its resumed hearing today.
The committee is probing alleged N143 billion tax invasion by telecoms firms which have been accused of employing delayed tactics to dodge current reconciliation efforts.

Abu had mulled serving bench warrants against the chief executives of major mobile telecommunications companies over their failure to appear before the committee to defend the allegations.
Meanwhile, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) yesterday said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) determined the rate at which royalties paid in dollars are converted to their naira equivalent before remittance into the federation account.

Speaking during an interface with the House Adhoc Committee investigating revenue leakages in the oil and gas sector from January 2016 to January, 2017 which is chaired by Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe (PDP, Cross River) DPR of Head Planning, Mrs. Folasade Odunuga, urged the committee to pressure the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on why its subsidiary, the National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), has refused to pay royalties on its crude production activities.

She also said: “NPDC remains the worst debtor in the oil and gas industry.”According to some of the receipts made available to the lawmakers, the remitted amount (in naira) into the federation account fell short of its dollar value using current exchange rates, prompting lawmakers to question the transaction which could have been under the supervision of the DPR.
It was observed that the CBN had been converting dollar remittances using about N167 to $1 instead of the current N305 to $1.
Odunuga, however informed the committee that “royalties on crude oil are paid strictly in dollars directly into the federation account in JP Morgan, managed by the CBN.”
She explained that there are other royalties that come in both naira and dollars, adding that payment invoice is based on what currency it was paid in.

The committee further sought clarification on invoices showing DPR converting dollars into naira before remittance to government accounts. But the DPR officials explained that such is never done as the department doesn’t handle cash directly.
She said: “Receipts are always written after we get our statement of account from the CBN. We do not receive any money nor have any interface with any payment. All payments are made directly to the federation account. It’s their obligation to pay before we evaluate because the law allows them to pay within 90 days.”

Asked why they don’t doubt whatever the CBN gives to them, and if it has never occurred to the DPR that the federal government was being short changed by what the CBN allegedly disclosed as paid in naira component, DPR director, Mordecai Baba Ladan, said: “We’ve had a good working relationship with the CBN over the years and we’ve not had any iota of doubt that what the CBN gave to us was inaccurate. So to say that we go and do independent investigation as to the facts given to us by the CBN has never crossed our minds.”

On why the regulator had not been able to liquidate over $158 million owed by OICs from 2000 to 2015, the head of planing said OICs who are indebted to government have been adamant as to the amount they should remit.
She explained that while the OICs have insisted that what they owe was less than what DPR has evaluated, the worst debtor in the industry is the NPDC which is the exploration arm of the NNPC.
Odunuga told the committee: “We may be children of same father and different mother, and it’s what our father instruct that we should do, and in this case, everybody is expected to pay what’s due to the father, but some are not doing that so we need the House to ask why.”