" ITREALMS: 2.3GHz controversy! Court may stop resale


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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

2.3GHz controversy! Court may stop resale

INDICATIONS are rife that the winners of the 2.3 Gega Hertz (GHz) auction in 2008 may go to court to stop the resale of their spectrum as directed by the federal government.

The Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili had last week Monday over-ruled the decision of the Nigerian Communications Communication (NCC) to resale the spectrum as she officially canceled the auctioning of 2.3 GHz, alleging that it did not follow due process. She however ordered the Commission to restart the process.

It was gathered that some of the winners of the frequency may have been encouraged to head to court to stop revocation of their licenses.

NCC had offered four 2.3 spectrum licenses for sale and eventually granted three to successful bidders, namely Mobitel Nigeria Limited, Spectranet Limited and Multilinks Telkom Limited while the fourth one, Galaxy Wireless was said to have not met the payment terms, thus disqualifying it. This came, following a letter of approval by the immediate past Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. John Odey dated October 31, 2008.

Akunyili cited the inability of the NCC to wait for the official release of the 2.3 frequency, which her Ministry purportedly released last week.

NCC had on October 31, 2008 received the 2.3 frequency for auction following a letter from the immediate past Minister, Mr. Odeh, who doubled as the then Chairman of the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC).

Although the letter with reference MC/TSD/NFMC/0282/Vol.II was specific and rightly addressed to the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, it was not clear why Akunyili decided to ignore it.

ITRealms Online gathered that at least two of the three winners have commenced the filing of necessary papers for the legal action.

While denying any personal interest with the EVC and NCC, the management of Mobitel said the process was revalidated following a re-purchase by a consortium led by Omni Ventures in 2008 and has met all obligations to return to operations.

According to the Executive Assistant to the Chairman of Mobitel Limited, Ola Abiodun, the company was revived by a new breed of dynamic and success driven individuals, who placed high premium on integrity, professionalism and excellence in performance and service delivery, recalling that the old Mobitel stopped operations in 2005, after it went into receivership.

Following the acquisition of Mobitel, the new management went through due process as published by the NCC to bid and pay for the spectrum in the 2.3GHz band.

“Prior to this, the new management also went through a process of negotiation with all creditors to whom the old Mobitel had been indebted, eventually paying off about N3.5 billion in accumulated debts in readiness for commencement of operations by the new owners of Mobitel,” he said.

A senior member of Mobitel also confirmed to ITRealms Online that they “Will proceed to court to enforce due process and see to the logical conclusion of this saga.”

For Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Multilinks Telkom Nigeria, Mrs. Ijeoma Abazie, it was unthinkable for anybody to have argued that Multilinks was used to replace Galaxy Wireless, stressing that Multi-Links Telkom applied for the 2.3GHz Spectrum License based on the advertisement placed in the media and the Internet by the regulatory body, NCC and would do everything possible to keep its name.

“The NCC had also expressly stated in the advertisements that granting of the license would be on a first pay, first served basis and it was based on this that Multi-Links Telkom qualified for the license,” she declared, pointing out that no company that bided for the license was disqualified, given the fact that there was still a fourth license to be awarded, which currently remains un-awarded.

Commenting on the controversy and intension of some of the awardees to drag the federal government to court to stop the fresh bid, a Lagos-based telecommunications lawyer, Mr. John St. Claret Ezeani noted that, the issue has become a matter for law and policy, hence he expects that “If the law has been infringed in the process, there is usually a repercussion for that, which is punishment.”

While warning that the court process may take some time, Ezeani said it could be the best bet, but recommended that the whole process be allowed to restart.

“That is the only way it will have credibility and the world will respect us (Nigeria) better, yet, let the winners go to court, if they want,” he said while predicting that, it may not be favourable to them eventually.

Industry analysts said that long court process may make mess of the success Nigeria has recorded in the past eight years in the telecommunications sector. They warned the federal government and Minister of Information and Communications not to politicize the independence of NCC. It would be recalled that the NCC boss was invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), following the Minister’s petition.

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