Etisalat inaugurates new board, former Airtel DMD named CEO

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…Nnanna, CBN deputy gov emerges chairman

By Olabisi Olaleye

The Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) on Tuesday, declared its support for the new management and board of embattled telephone operator, Etisalat Nigeria, currently trying to restructure its operations.

NCC’s support came shortly after a new board of the company was inaugurated on Tuesday , with Dr Joseph Nnanna, a deputy governor at the Central Bank of Nigeria as its new chairman.

Mr. Nnanna succeeds Hakeem Bello-Osagie, who was the only surviving shareholder after the June 15 withdrawal of the major shareholder, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company, from the company.

Dr. Nnanna is an economist and a former staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He has over three decades of post qualification professional experience, having attended William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey and University of Houston, in Texas, USA from 1975-80, where he read Finance, Public Policy and Economics.

The Emirates Group, also known as Etisalat Group, is represented by its affiliate, Mubadala Development Company, a United Arab Emirate, (UAE), development firm.

Mr. Bello-Osagie, the promoter of Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services, (EMTS), which controlled 15 per cent of the equity holding of the company, resigned on Friday in the wake of the deepening debt crisis with a consortium of banks.

Other members of the new Board and management of the company as announced by the its spokesperson, Ibrahim Dikko, include Oluseyi Bickersteth, Ken Igbokwe, Boye Olusanya and Funke Ighodaro.

Mr  Boye Olusanya was named Chief Executive Officer, to replace Mr Matthew Willsher, who has now been named adviser to the company, while Mrs Funke Ighodaro would take over from Olawole Obasunloye as Chief Finance Officer. Boye assumed the role of Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Celtel Nigeria and led the business strategy initiative for data services as well as key strategic operational changes in the business   

 On her part, Mrs. Ighodaro was Chief Financial Officer of Tiger Brands Limited from 2011 to 2016. She held the position of Chief Financial Officer of Primedia (Pty) Ltd, from 2001 to 2011. Prior to 2001, she was Managing Director of a private equity firm, Kagiso Ventures Limited and Executive Director of its parent company, Kagiso Trust Investment Company.

Commenting on the development which came after the 13 banks exposed to the company took over late last month, the Nigerian Communications Commission ( NCC)  said it was pleased that parties to the crisis were able to reach amicable terms that have set them on the path of resolving the crisis.

“The Commission is pleased to note that Etisalat and its creditors have successfully reached an amicable resolution of key issues pertaining to its indebtedness, and that a smooth transitional process is currently ongoing on mutually agreed terms,” said Director, Public Affairs of the Commission, Tony Ojobo, said in a statement.

He noted further that the Commission was confident the resolutions reached by the parties will further strengthen Etisalat’s capacity to continue to provide services to its over 20 million customers and also fulfill its obligations to its other stakeholders.

In its previous statement in the wake of the announcement of the formal exit of the major shareholder of the company, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company, and the threat by the banks to take over Etisalat, the NCC had warned that the operational license for the mobile telephone firm was not transferable to a third party.

One of the points that formed the core of the agreement on the restructuring of the $1.2 billion (about N377.4 billion) loan between the consortium of banks and Etisalat Nigeria was what all parties would do with the operating license.

Mr. Ojobo said the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 empowered the Commission to take steps, by working with various interest groups to resolve the crisis and ensure the industry continued to play its critical role as a key driver of national socio-economic development.

He also said NCC’s intervention, along with the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), was informed by the need to sustain the telecommunication industry’s significant contribution to national Gross Domestic Product, (GDP), in terms employment and infrastructure development.

Recall that in 2013, Etisalat had obtained the syndicated loan from a consortium of 13 Nigerian banks.

The banks included Access Bank, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, First Bank Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Ecobank, United Bank for Africa Plc and Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.

The loan, which involved a foreign-backed guaranteed bond, was to help the mobile firm finance a major network rehabilitation, upgrade and expansion of its operational base in Nigeria.

However, its failure to meet agreed debt servicing obligations with the banks from 2016 following Nigeria’s economic recession triggered a major crisis which culminated in the crisis that affected the operations of the company, reputed to be Nigeria’s fourth largest telephone mobile operator, with estimated 21 million subscribers.

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