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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Debt profile: PNN invites NCC, EFCC ...We don’t owe PNN – MTN insists

The debt controversy between Private Networks Nigeria Limited (PNN) and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited may have taken another dimension with the invitation to the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to intervene.

While PNN claims indebtedness by MTNN to the tune of N966m, the mobile operator insisted it does not owe PNN, pending the determinatio of the three separate legal actions on the matter.

This, ITRealms Online gathered follows a contract agreement of 2008 that went into turbulence.

Whereas MTN says it owes nothing to PNN, the company led by Alhaji AbdulRahman Abiola-Odunowo alleged that the telecom operator is indebted to them to the tune of N966 million based on Arbitration award and accrued interest since June 2010.

According to Abiola-Odunowo who briefed newsmen, weekend at the conference hall of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Alausa, Ikeja-Lagos, his company is demanding payment of the said sum based on the outcome of an arbitrator’s award to the company as at May 31, this year.

He was also mindful of the fact that the said sum of N966 million attracts a 21 per cent interest per annum.

He noted that the arbitration awarded on April 20, 2011, headed by Hon. Justice Dolapo F. Akinsanya had reportedly resolved the dispute between the two firms through its final award, a copy of which was made available to ITRealms Online directed among other things that Respondent (MTN) pay the sum of N115,000,000 to the Claimant (PNN) and should pay interest at the rate of 21 per cent per annum from June 1, 2010 till the final liquidation of both the sum of N115,000,000 and accrued interest.

Additionally, he claimed that the Sole Arbitrator had directed that the Claimant is entitled to a refund of N100,030,411 and the Interest thereon as this sum has been reportedly admitted by the Respondent as being due to the claimant.

Abiola-Odunowo, accompanied by his Executive Assistant, Ms Jane Ezema, whom he noted was recently detained by law enforcement in connection with the case, saying that the amount being requested for payment by PNN is in total of the afore-listed sums due to PNN, plus the relevant 21 per cent interest rate.

Also, he said that PNN had formally lodged petition with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) against MTN of which they are now waiting for the regulator’s response.

“We have similarly taken this matter to EFCC. We pray the EFCC to rather than harassing our officials, should instead investigate this issue speedily so as to help us recover all our monies from MTN which will go towards paying off our own creditors,” Abiola-Odunowo solicited.

He further appealed to well-meaning Nigerians, especially the Federal Government, National Assembly to call MTN to order and ask it to modify its modus of conformity to the rule of law.

“The law is the final arbiter and everyone including MTN must be seen to be subject to it,” he declared.

Reacting to inquiries, the Corporate Service Executive, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Mr. Wale Goodluck maintained that the case is currently in three courts across Lagos, thus he would not like to comment on the matter, but referred whomever it may concern to check a rejoinder to PNN’s press statement earlier published by MTN Nigeria.

Pointing out that the solicitors to MTN Nigeria on this case, Messrs Falana & Falana’s Chambers has high reputation and would not afford to engage in such a case without the facts laying on the table.

Obviously responding to the MTN rejoinder on purported inconsistency in the figures from PNN, Alhaji Abiola-Odunowo explained that the figures were based on the 21 per cent interest rate being accumulated since June 2010 as directed by the Sole Arbitrator in her award.

He insisted that the claims of ineptitude cannot hold water as PNN had in 2009 won ‘MTN’s Service Excellence Award’ and from industry stakeholders the ‘Best Value Added Service Provider in Nigeria’ in 2008 among others.

He added that why PNN went to court filing a case against MTN and 57 Oil and Gas Suppliers on suit LD/1846/2010, was in effort to bring to a halt the unwarranted harassment of its staff by security agencies and to urge MTN to pay up the debt owe PNN.

He further said that the sum purportedly deposited to NUPENG cannot be accessed by PNN since the money was not paid to it.

However, Oludare Falana who endorsed the MTN’s rejoinder noted that an agreement dated February 8, 2008 was entered between MTN and PNN for site integration and maintenance services for some of its base stations in Abuja and Kano regions.

Falana also described the publication of two separate press statements on two national dailies by PNN as attempts to influence the suits currently pending in several courts in Lagos.

He advised PNN leadership to stick to the path of rule of law by meeting up with its financial obligations.

In addition, Falana said that PNN knew that the supposed ‘final award’ delivered on April 20, 2011 by the sole arbitrator is presently a subject of litigation before the Lagos State High Court in suit: LD M/492/2011.

For the avoidance of doubt, Falana stated that there are two different matters before the High Courts in addition to a concluded Arbitration Process in which PNN recently filed an application to seek further clarification from the Arbitrator.

MTN, Falana said, would choose to be guided by discretion with respect to the matters that are sub-judice.

Remmy Nweke:

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