Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Nigeria - US$11 billion in foreign funds

Nigeria: GSM Gulps $11bn Foreign Funds

The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday that investment in Nigeria's Global System of Mobile telecommunication (GSM) has grown from $50m in 1999 to $11.5b in 2007, but said it has no record of cash outflow flowing from the investment.

Mr Dave Imoko, NCC's director for Government and Legislative Affairs, told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts that the growth in the telecommunications industry has provided direct employment to over 10,000 Nigerians and that an additional one million people are indirectly employed in the sector.

He said the GSM operators have erected 10,000 base stations instead of the 20,000 to 30,000 base stations needed by them to curb the poor service currently rendered, adding that the fine imposed on the providers would be enforced.

However, the House Committee ordered the Commission to provide it with the detailed investment inflow made by all the GSM operators in the country since the time they were licensed.

The committee also asked the NCC to put in place measures aimed at collating detailed information on subscribers to enable the commission trace telephone lines used to commit crimes.

The directive came just as the NCC and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF) disagreed over the last time the commission submitted its audited accounts to the AGF.

Committee Chairman Usman Adamu Mohammed, who gave the order during an interactive session with the commission and the Offices of the Auditor General of the Federation and Accountant General of the Federation, said it was possible that the operators had not been giving the true picture of their investments in the country.

Imoko could not give the figure of the total outflow from the GSM operators, saying it was not NCC's responsibility to monitor monies going out of the country, but that of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said the investment flow was easy to ascertain because the Licensing department of NCC has a tariff and charges section which does the analysis of investments in conjunction with the technical department.

"Our licensing department has a tariff and charges section. They are supposed to submit annual accounts to us. Analysis is done on this. The technical department also monitors. We have the required competence. Our licensing department has tariffs and charges and we have economists who have been trained to specialize in those areas. Organizations support us with training. That is why I am saying that this is a very conservative estimate. We are not just relying on what they (operators) have given," he added.

Also Mr Ayo Oke, Special Assistant to NCC's Executive Vice Chairman Mr Ernest Ndukwe, told the committee that as at December 2007, the operators had sold out 42 million lines, adding that the commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been meeting to reduce the rate of crimes committed with GSM lines.
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But not satisfied with the explanation, Mohammed asked the commission to work out the details of investments made by each of the operators and forward it to the committee. Following an observation made by two members of the committee, Emeka Stanley and Linus Umoh over the inability of the NCC to trace lines used by criminals, Mohammed also asked the commission to work out measures which will make it possible to trace criminals who use and dump their lines. He said such measures could help to reduce crime rate in the country.

Earlier, NCC's Deputy Director and Head of Finance, Iyabode Solanke and the representative of the Auditor-General of the Federation, Emmanuel Ilechukwu had disagreed over the last time the commission submitted its accounts to the Office of the AGF.

While Solanke claimed that NCC submitted its audited accounts up to 2006, Ilechukwu said the last time the AGF received the commission's audited account was in 2004. Solanke also claimed that the commission submitted its 2006 audited account to the Senate Committee on Public Accounts but forgot to submit same to its counterpart in the House of Representatives.

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