Stakeholders Fret over 9mobile Imbroglio


By Emma Okonji

Telecoms stakeholders have expressed concern over the recent withdrawal of Teleology Holdings Limited from the 9mobile acquisition deal.

They are worried that the sudden withdrawal could worsen the operational conditions of 9mobile, whose subscriber base has dropped from 22 million in 2016, to 16 million in 2018, since the beginning of the financial crisis that rocked the telecoms company in 2017, when its creditors threatened to takeover the company over its inability to continue the repayment of the $1.2 billion loan it took from 13 local banks in 2013.

The stakeholders called for speedy intervention that would address the issue before it escalates.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, who reacted to the withdrawal of Teleology Holdings via a telephone conversation with THISDAY, said the pull-out from the deal, could create a serious setback for 9mobile that has made some progress since the commencement of the acquisition plan. He called on all the shareholders from Teleology Holdings and Teleology Nigeria to address their differences in the best interest of the Nigerian telecoms industry.

Similarly, the President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, who also expressed worries over the exit of Teleology Holdings, said: “The implication is that 9mobile will begin all over again to look for a technical partner and financier that are willing to invest in 9mobile, since NCC had insisted on a competent technical partner and a financially stable operator to take over 9mobile.”

Industry stakeholders are of the view that 9mobile’s prolonged recovery may be prolonged even further with the withdrawal of Teleology Holdings from the organisation. “Indeed, the recovery may be a mirage judging by last week’s reported exit of Teleology Holdings from the 9mobile project,” one of the stakeholders told THISDAY.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta had on Monday, revealed the intention of commission on how it will intervene in the issue between Teleology Holdings Limited and Teleology Nigeria, in order to protect the interest of investors and subscribers, even though he said the issue has not been officially brought to NCC’s table for mediation.

While Teleology Holdings is accusing Teleology Nigeria of declining to execute a management services contract for the full acquisition of 9mobile, Teleology Nigeria is equally accusing Teleology Holdings of not meeting its obligations in the entire 9mobile acquisition process, even though it owned a minority stake of 13 per cent in Teleology Nigeria Limited. The accusation and counter-accusation breed mistrust among both parties, which eventually led to the pullout of Teleology Holdings from the telecoms business deal.

Giving the scenario of the once vibrant Nigeria’s national telecoms carrier, NITEL, which technically went under as a result of improper management on the side of government before it was eventually sold out to NATCOM, trading as ntel, stakeholders have called for caution in handling the 9mobile imbroglio.

Danbatta, said the commission had already made some moves to address the situation in the interest of 9mobile subscribers and the telecoms industry.

“The bone of contention is between Teleology Holdings Limited and Teleology Nigeria, over some disagreements, but as a regulator that is both customer and investor centric, we have set up some measures to resolve the issue between the two parties.

“We need stability in the telecoms industry and we will do everything possible to protect the interest of both the 9mobile subscribers and its investors and ensure there is no disruption of services,” Danbatta had said.