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Monday, Oct 21st

NCC wades into Etisalat Nigeria crisis

NCC wades into Etisalat Nigeria crisis

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has decided to step into the crisis facing Etisalat Nigeria following Tuesday's announcement by Serkan Okandan, Chief Financial Officer of Etisalat Group, of a resolution reached to commence transfer of ownership of Etisalat Nigeria to a consortium of banks the company is indebted to.

According to an official announcement issued by Etisalat Group in a filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, EMTS Holding BV has up to June 23 to complete the transfer of 100 percent of the company's shares in Etisalat to the United Capital Trustees Limited, the legal representative of the consortium of banks.

However, the NCC is attempting a last-ditch effort to force an agreement and this is expected to culminate in a meeting today between Etisalat Nigeria, NCC, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a consortium of banks.

Regulatory hurdles

Responding to the reported takeover of Etisalat by the banks, the regulator said the transfer has some regulatory hurdles to scale before it could be approved.

NCC spokesperson Tony Ojobo called the banks' attention to a provision of the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 which prevents transfer of license to another party without the written approval of the NCC.

"The NCC is aware of the indebtedness of Etisalat Nigeria to the consortium of banks. NCC and the CBN mediated by holding several meetings with the banks, Etisalat and other stakeholders with a view to finding a resolution. Despite the efforts of the two industry regulators of Federal Government, regrettably these meetings did not yield the desired results," Ojobo said.

"The Commission has taken proactive steps to cushion the impact of the takeover, this is without prejudice to the ongoing effort between Etisalat and the banks toward negotiated settlement. Whilst the banks and Etisalat are working at resolving the issues, the Commission wishes to assure subscribers that they will continue to enjoy the services provided by Etisalat," he added.

Numerous conflicting reports and statements have surfaced regarding the fate of Etisalat Nigeria.

This week Ibrahim Dikko, Vice President for Regulatory and Corporate Affairs at Etisalat Nigeria, affirmed that a final resolution would soon be reached this week with the banks on the US$1.2 billion syndicated loan.

Reuters has also reported that Etisalat Nigeria is still talking to the banks for a "non-disruptive" solution to the debt crisis.

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