Some telecommunications companies (telcos) in Nigeria have jointly instituted a lawsuit against the National Assembly in a bid to better understand the lawmakers’ oversight functions in the sector.
The telcos (who came together under the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operator of Nigeria; ALTON), complained about the constant invitation of their CEOs to appear before different committees of the National Assembly, and how said invitations affect their daily business operations.
They are [therefore] seeking a judicial clarification of the oversight functions carried out by the lawmakers in the telecoms sector.
ALTON’s Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, who disclosed this development in Lagos over the weekend stated that the lawsuit became imperative after several failed attempts to dialogue with the National Assembly members in a bid to resolve the impasse. He said that they tried to express their displeasure over the fact that telcos CEOs are often invited to face different NASS committees and always to discuss the same issue every time, without recourse as to how said invitations affect their work schedules. According to him, this was indicative of overlapping functions between; something that needed to be addressed in a court of law.
The NASS’ insistence on attendance of CEOs at such session is without consideration of these CEOs reasonable schedule conflict or the fact that other senior management staff may be better versed and suited due to the nature of their job roles vis-a-vis the subject matter of investigation.
The issue of multiple National Assembly committees and constant invitation of stakeholders before said committees have long persisted. This is [perhaps] peculiar to the telecoms sector, where companies such as MTN have recently been indicted for “wrongdoing” and therefore under serious surveillance/investigation.
Telcos are therefore constantly being summoned to appear before different committees, including the Standing Committee on Telecoms, and the Ad-hoc Committee on Operational activities of Telecoms Equipment and Service Providers. These committees investigate everything from loss of jobs to loss of revenue to the Federal Government. They also investigate customers’ complaints about Value Added services.
Meanwhile, as the summon became constant, ALTON (during its inaugural meeting in late 2017) reached a resolution to seek legal understanding of NASS’ oversight functions. As Adebayo further stated, the group want an end to the disturbance, as some of the information requested by the National Assembly committees are either too confidential to be disclosed, or in public domain and as such can be easily gotten from relevant government agencies under whose jurisdiction such information lies.
Telcos are major contributors to the Nigerian economy. In the second quarter of 2017 alone, the sector contributed about ₦1.54 trillion to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the Nigeria Communications Commission.