The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) says it has started legal action to seek interpretation of the provisions of the constitution on the extent of the National Assembly (NASS)’s oversight functions on telecoms companies.
Engineer Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, ALTON says that members of the telecoms trade group have been “inundated with constant summons from different committees of the NASS served on their Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to appear before several National Assembly (NASS) Committees, which has negative impact on ability to focus on their business operations.”
Adebayo says that “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.
“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.
Adebayo says that “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.”
“There were further hearings on Tuesday, 25th April and 8th and 23rd May 2017. However, at those Hearings the Committee insisted that it would only grant audience to the CEOs of the companies and no other representative, in spite of technical knowledge and seniority of such Representatives, ” Adebayo says.
The ALTON Chairman explains that some of the investigative duties of the different committees overlap and require similar information from the attendees.
“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 ALTON Chairman says.
On the issue of loss of jobs, the Committee on Telecoms is also investigating it and the Committee on Labour also summons members. The Committee on Telecoms also served summons for investigation by its Ad Hoc Committee for Value Added Services and Committee investigating locally available 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 three to four days, which will necessitate member CEOs being away from their businesses for such long periods,” according to ALTON.
Adebayo says that some of the requested information border on information within the purview of specific government agencies, which the NASS could easily request the agencies to provide. Such information as evidence of Tax remittances to government since inception of members operations, which could date as far back as 16 years or confidential information which members should not be obliged to provide, according to ALTON.