By Emma Okonji
The Business Renaissance Group (BRG), a group that focuses on ensuring standard practice of all business transactions in Nigeria, has faulted the call by a pressure group for a probe into the recent appointment of members of the MTN Board of Directors.
The pressure group had issued a statement, calling for the probe of persons appointed into the MTN Board, claiming that its Chairman, Dr. Ernest Nduwke, was one time the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and that Dr. Omobola Johnson who is also a member of the newly appointed MTN Board, was a former Minister of Communications Technology that supervised the regulator.
The pressure group had raised some fears that the presence of Ndukwe and Johnson on the MTN Board, among other Nigerians with intimidating qualifications, would influence NCC’s regulation over MTN.
However, condemning the action of the pressure group, the President of BRG, Chief Omife Omife, who spoke at a media briefing in Lagos recently, stressed that the presence of Ndukwe and Johnson, among other Board members, would actually make MTN to sit up because it has members of its Board of Directors, who understand telecoms business just the way MTN does.
Secretary to BRG, Dr. Ike Ikenna, said: “We became interested in the opposing views of the pressure group because we felt MTN should be commended rather than castigated for appointing high calibre of Nigerians into the MTN Board of Directors, which other multinational companies in the oil and gas sector could not do, despite their long period of operations in Nigeria.
“Our mission about the MTN issue is not to sing their praises, but to fight a just course, because the action of MTN deserves commendations from Nigerians.”
Reacting to questions whether MTN may have breached the law in the process of appointing its board members, the Legal Adviser to BRG, Barrister Ogbonnaya Ogbuafor, said it would be out of place for a pressure group to assume that MTN did not follow due process in the appointment of its board members because it is a private limited company that can take its own decision on how to handle its corporate governance and the management of the company, subject only to its regulator, the NCC.
He advised that people should be looking at strong and dependable institutions and not powerful individuals that are perceived to influence regulator’s decision.
According to Omife, some of the best-known and respected corporations that have operated within the shores of Nigeria for many years, some as long as over 50 years, especially the multinationals, still operate in Nigeria with membership of their Boards skewed in favour of non-Nigerians.
“Indeed, most of these notable multinationals have only recently, under compulsion, deemed it expedient to enlarge their Boards of Directors to include Nigerians, and MTN must be commended for Nigerians to its board,” Omife said.
He further explained that the recent reconstitution of the Board of Directors of MTN Nigeria, remained a veritable example of how best to appreciate local human resource. In its less than two decades of operation in Nigeria, MTN has made it a point of duty to appoint capable Nigerians to its Board.
The last Board was headed by Dr. Pascal Dozie as Chairman with the likes of Gbenga Oyebode, a corporate czar and Tunde Folawiyo, a scion of the legendary Folawiyo dynasty and an astute entrepreneur in his own right, Omife said.
“It is as clear as crystal that the appointment of these distinguished Nigerians to the MTN Board, in no way, detracts from equity and fairness.
“If anything, their appointment is indeed a masterstroke by a visionary multinational corporation to harness the best of available local talent to further the ends of its noble objectives, which, all things considered, will serve the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians,” Omife added.
MTN had in July this year, announced the appoint of new board members, following the retirement of its former Board Chairman, Paschal Dozie and five other non-Executive Directors, a situation that is currently raising dust.