Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) yesterday said the Commission and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had moved to intervene in the Etisalat loan issue, according to Tony Ojobo, director of Public Affairs of NCC.
Ojobo said that “After a meeting on Thursday afternoon in Abuja between the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta and the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele and his team, a decision was reached to intervene in the loan issue between Etisalat Nigeria and a consortium of commercial banks.
“The meeting which was held at the CBN in Abuja was convened by the financial regulator at the instance of NCC and the telecom regulator to further deliberate on how best to stop the attempt by the banks to take over Etisalat.
“At the end of the meeting, the CBN agreed to invite Etisalat management and the banks to a meeting tomorrow, Friday, toward finding an amicable resolution,’’ he said.
Ojobo said that the NCC as a regulator of the telecom industry had moved quickly to intervene earlier in the week by reaching out to the CBN because it was convinced of the negative impact such takeover move would have on the industry.
He added that NCC was worried about the fate of the over 20 million Etisalat subscribers and the wrong signals this might send to potential investors in the Telecom industry. It was reported that on March 8, Etisalat was had been taken over by three banks because of its N541.8 billion debt.
However, Ms Oluseyi Osuntedo, head of Public Relations, Etisalat Nigeria, dispelled the talk that banks had taken over the company.
Osuntedo said that discussions were still ongoing between the banks and the company. “Discussions are going on; nobody is taking up the company. It is not true that we are being picketed, whoever gave the information is not telling the truth,” she said.
A consortium of some foreign and Nigerian banks, including Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank and Zenith Bank, have been having a running battle with the mobile telephone operator, over a loan facility totalling 1.72 billion dollars (about N541.8 billion) obtained in 2015.
The banks said their attempt to recover the loan by all means, was fuelled by the pressure from the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), demanding immediate cut down on the rate of their non-performing loans.
NCC appears not to be favourably disposed to the takeover proposal as it believed that Etisalat is not only a viable going concern, but also willing and able to negotiate the servicing of its loans.