Tuesday, August 16, 2005


From the Vanguard (Lagos)

August 15, 2005
Posted to the web August 15, 2005

Godfrey Ikhemuemhe

AT four years of the introduction of GSM in the country, Nigeria has again scored another first in the fixed wireless segment of the telecommunications market.

Chief Regulator and CEO of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, has revealed that Nigeria leads the whole of Africa in fixed lines service penetration.

Ndukwe who spoke last week at the seminar on Corporate Governance in the Telecommunications sector, indicated that with the number of fixed wireless lines in the country today, the nation ranks favourably with developed countries of the world in terms of fixed line penetration.

He attributed the giant strides recorded by the country in the telecommunications sector to the innovative approaches to policy regulation on the part of the regulator and the innovativeness of the service providers in service delivery.

The NCC boss, however, contended that the gains of the past four years were capable of being eroded if operators did not adhere to good corporate government principles.

He enumerated those practices in the sector which were inimical to development to include refusal by some operators to pay statutory levies to government; refusal by some operators to settle interconnect bills even though they have collected payment upfront for such calls; refusal by some operators to audit their accounts annually; as well as other flaws in the style of management such as employment policies, lack of transparency and so on.

Ndukwe explained that the commission had a role to play in ensuring good corporate governance in the sector but quickly added that all stakeholders in the sector were responsible for ensuring good corporate governance.

He further contended that the NCC would enforce regulation to the extent that the interest of the consumer is protected. "We can look into how an organisation is managed to ensure that the consumer is protected," he told participants at the seminar constituted by operators, consumers and media men.

He admonished sectoral organisations and associations such as the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) to be involved in peer review for effective implementation of good corporate governance practices amongst their members.

"Those operators that are successful in the industry today are those that have adopted good corporate government policies,"Ndukwe asserted.

Earlier in his lecture, Dr. Chris Uwaje, CEO of Connect Technologies Limited, had advocated good corporate governance policies across the entire spectrum of the Nigerian economy, stressing that the damaging effect of poor corporate governance is not restricted to the telecom sector.

He said if there was good corporate governance in the public sector, the decay in the country's infrastructure would not be as bad as it was. He said corruption would also have been reduced to the minimum.

Dr. Uwaje advocated that all who believe in the dream of a better Nigeria should be involved in enthroning good corporate governance in all aspects of the Nigerian economy, stressing that Nigeria would be the better for it.

Turning to the Telcos, he said the revolution in the telecommunications industry could only be sustained by if operators adhered strictly to good corporate governance principles in running their businesses.

He said Telcos should have quality assurance, which should be paramount in their operations, stressing that Nigeria was lucky to have an efficient driver for the sector like the NCC, which has ensured that corporate governance had to degenerated to abysmal levels.

He also enjoined telecos to be involved in capacity building in human resource for according to him, without the requisite human resource there would be no place for good corporate governance in an organization. He contended that the Digital Bridge Institute recently established by the NCC was a right step in the right direction in addressing the human capacity issue.

No more need for Altech, says Econet Wireless

ECONET Wireless says it no longer has any need for the partnership with Altech because it already has numerous offers from potential investors who are interested in the communications outfit.

Strive Masiyawa, Econet's CEO told South African journalists in a media briefing at the weekend that his company would be able to finance an amicable settlement arising from the divorce, stressing that there were already so many suitors.

Masiyawa's position is coming against the background of a suit filed by Altech in a Botswana High Court asking for the winding down of Econet Wireless Global, its joint venture with the Econet Wireless group.

Masiyawa's briefing was held subsequent to a hearing in the high court of SA, where Altech has also launched an application to prevent Masiyiwa from proceeding with an independent inquiry into allegations of racist remarks by an employee seconded by Altech to Econet Wireless Global. The case was moved to 18 August.

According to Masiyiwa, there was no justifiable reason for litigation when the relationship between the two companies broke down. Altech has communicated in a statement that they are a willing seller and Econet is a willing buyer, thus there should be no conflict.

According to Econet, it partnered with Altech because in addition to the financial investment, Altech did not threaten its vision. The agreement also made it clear that Econet would manage the joint venture with Masiyiwa at the helm. It was therefore within his scope of duties to take action over the alleged racist comment.

Masiyiwa also questioned Altech's application to wind down the partnership, claiming that Econet had pre-emptive rights. He emphasised the company was operational and had employees before Altech came along and winding down its affairs would be failing them.

Masiyiwa reiterated that the Econet Wireless Group's stake in the joint venture was not for sale, at any price. He said the license to operate in Botswana was under strict regulations and that Altech does not meet the requirements to serve as a technical strategic partner to the Botswana government.

Masiyiwa said it would have been to both companies' common interest to go for arbitration and to ask for an independent evaluation of the shares, rather than taking the litigious approach. Econet would then have purchased the Altech stake at what they would consider a fair value.

"A judge cannot rule that we pay Altech the $100 million for the stake as it is not within his/her competency to value shares in a company," Masiyiwa said. The more likely scenario, he said, is that the judge would appoint a banking institution and instruct them to value the shares, which would bring them to the same position.

Masiyiwa said the Econet Group was not bound by the agreement any more and can therefore continue with their expansion plans. "As an operator, we are not short of opportunities," he said.

MTN Group concludes acquisition of Telecel Zambia â-oe appoints executives

THE MTN Group has concluded the acquisition of Telecel Zambia. This follows the approval from the regulatory and competition authorities in Zambia okaying the acquisition. The company would soon commence full operations.

The acquisition of Telecel Zambia follows the recent acquisition by the group of Telecel Cote d'Ivoire.

Says Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN Group CEO: "We are pleased that our acquisition of Telecel Zambia has been concluded as we believe the operation holds very positive growth prospects for the MTN Group. We look forward to commencing operations in Zambia and are confident that our expertise and approach to doing business on the continent will contribute effectively to the growth of the mobile industry there."

MTN also announced the appointment of Mike Blackburn, as Chief Executive Officer for the Zambian operation. Blackburn was formerly chief financial officer at MTN Uganda.

Recently, the MTN Group also announced the acquisition of the 51% stake in Loteny Telecom, trading under the name Telecel Cote d'Ivoire, in the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire.

Ron Allard, former chief executive officer of MTN Cameroon, is the chief executive officer of Telecel Cote d'Ivoire.

The MTN Group is also pleased to announce the appointment of Ms SB Mtshali as MTN Group Company Secretary effective from 1 August 2005.

Combined with the recent acquisition of a 51% share in Telecel Cote d'Ivoire, the acquisition of Telecel Zambia increases the MTN Group's operations to eight - including MTN South Africa, MTN Nigeria, MTN Cameroon, MTN Uganda, MTN Rwanda and MTN Swaziland. The latest acquisitions bring the MTN Group's total subscriber base to more than 18 million.

Vmobile introduces handset warranty

VMOBILE has introduced a one-year warranty and aftersales service for all handsets bought from Vstores and authorised trade partners nationwide.

This is part of the company's determination to give value to its customers wherever they may reside.

The introduction of the service is aimed at helping Vmobile customers derive the best benefit from their phones and remain in touch.

Obinna Ariwodo, Head of Events, Sponsorship & PR, Vmobile Nigeria, the warranty service covers manufacturer's defect (or out of box failure) and faults that occur within 12 months of the purchase of the phone.

Under the warranty programme, handsets that developed fault within seven days of purchase will be replaced free of charge, whereas handsets that developed fault within 12 months of purchase will be repaired, all subject to manufacturer/Vmobile's Standard Warranty Terms and Conditions as outlined in the Cell phone Guide (enclosed in the phone pack).

Any faulty handset would only be replaced at the original point of purchase and should be accompanied by the warranty card and invoice obtained, detailing the make, model, IMEI number and date of purchase of the handset. Subscribers are, however, advised to look at for the warranty stickers at the point of purchase. But warranty will not apply if there are signs of customisation, misuse, physical damage, liquid damage or abuse on the handset.

While purchasing handsets from any of Vmobile's authorised outlets, customers are to ensure that the handset has a one-year warranty sticker on the handset package and that all accessories, manual, and user guide supplied by the manufacturer are intact. The subscriber should also ensure that the handset is tested in the presence of customer care agent, to ensure that it is in perfect condition, and that the Warranty card attached to the Cell phone Guide is completed and a copy kept properly.

Subscribers should be informed that warranty repairs will attract administrative charge of N500 only and that the warranty service is limited to handsets purchased from Vstores and authorized trade partners' outlets that are used on the Vmobile network.

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