By Martin Ekpeke

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has given an explanation why it is seeking court interpretation of the powers of the National Assembly to exercise oversight functions on Telecommunications Companies in the country.

According to the umbrella body of telecom companies in Nigeria, its members have been facing a series of summons from different committees of both the upper and lower legislative chambers, which has inadvertently impacted negatively on their ability to focus on their core business operations.

“The NASS’ insistence on attendance of CEOs at such session is without consideration of these CEOs reasonable schedule conflicts 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 the investigation,” said Engr, Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, ALTON in Lagos..

Adebayo noted that, for instance, the Ad-Hoc Committee set up by the House of Representatives to investigate the Health Implications of Telecommunications Towers in residential buildings, called for public hearings on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th April, 2017, at which the industry was supposed to be represented by ALTON, but the Committee, insisted that each operator make its own presentation.

He said there was a further hearing on Tuesday, 25th April and 8th and 23rd May 2017, which the committee, however  insisted CEOs of the telecom companies and no other representative will be given an audience, in spite of technical knowledge and seniority of such representatives.

In his words:  “For instance, members are summoned by both the standing Committee on Telecoms and its Ad-hoc Committee on Operational activities of Telecoms Equipment and Service Providers both investigating loss of revenue to the Federal Government.

“The Committee on telecoms is also investigating the loss of jobs which the Committee on Labor also summons members in respect of. The Committee on Telecoms also served summons for investigation by its Adhoc Committee for Value Added Services and Committee investigating locally manufactured skills.

“Apart from the duplication of effort by the Committees, the manner of invitation borders on harassment of our members as the invitations are sometimes scheduled on the same day leading to conflict or scheduled back to back for 3 to 4 days, which will necessitate member CEOs being away from their businesses for such long periods,” he said.

Thus, ALTON is seeking the court interpretation on the following:

  1. Extent of the NASS’ oversight functions with respect to private companies and particularly, Telecommunications companies which are already subject to regulatory oversight by regulators;
  2. Specific nature of information which the NASS can lawfully request from private companies including Telecommunications Companies, and whether it includes companies’ confidential information and information within the purview of government agencies;
  3. Specific nature of directives that can be made by NASS pursuant to the outcome of their investigative activities;
  4. Declaration on the proprietary of the NASS to issue these summons and insist that our members are represented by their CEOs and not senior management representatives whose job function deal with the subject matter of investigation; and
  5. An order restraining the NASS from serving any further summons on Telecommunication Companies pending the determination of the action

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