House to Probe 9mobile’s Indebtedness to Banks

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James Emejo in Abuja

The House of Representatives thursday passed a resolution urging an investigation into Etisalat Nigeria, now 9mobile’s indebtedness to 13 Nigerian banks.

The resolution was sequel to a motion by Hon. Saheed Akinade -Fijabi (APC, Oyo).
The lawmakers expressed concern over the circumstances that led to the problems of the telecommunications firm, which commenced business in Nigeria in 2009 and the eventual exit of its Abu Dhabi-based investors due its inability to repay a $1.2 billion syndicated loan from the banks.

According to Akinade- Fijabi, “Etisalat Nigeria obtained a loan of $1.2 billion (N377.4 billion) in 2013 from 13 Nigerian banks which involved a foreign- backed guaranteed bond to finance a major network rehabilitation, upgrade and expansion of its operational base in Nigeria.

“Etisalat Nigeria has so far paid about half of the initial loan amounting to about N504 billion with a total outstanding sum of about $574 million but had reneged on its debt servicing obligations after the intervention of the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria to restructure the loan and new repayment deadline.”

He said: “The failure of Etisalat to meet its debt service obligations with the banks since 2016 resulted in its foreign major stakeholders pulling out.”

He rebuked the banks for their action, describing it and the renaming of the company as 9Mobile as a violation of Section 38 (1) of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, which forbids sub-licensing or transfer of licence to another party.

House Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun, who presided over plenary therefore, mandated the House Committee on Telecommunications to conduct the investigation and report back in eight weeks for further legislative action.
The House similarly resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate what it described as low concessionary tariffs granted by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in 2013 to some companies for importation of sugar.

Considering a motion by Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma (PDP, Edo), members said it was inappropriate for the government to review the tariffs downwards against the five per cent duty and 70 per cent levy contained in the National Sugar Policy.

Agbonayinma said the National Sugar Development Council (NSDC) “had revealed that some companies had flouted the terms and conditions for obtaining a three -year low tariff running into hundreds of billions of Naira for sugar importation into the country.”

He said: “The high tariff for importation of refined sugar was deliberately designed to discourage importation and encourage local production of sugar, but the concession became necessary in order not to hike the local price of the commodity since the country has not yet achieved self-sufficiency in sugar production.”