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Ongoing sale of 9mobile programmed to be inconclusive from day one—Expert

A Lagos based investment consultant, Donald Akugah has argued that the ongoing sale of troubled 9mobile has all the characteristics of a process designed to fail midway.

Speaking in an interview with Business Hilights correspondent in Abuja on Thursday over the myriads of knocks trailing the entire process from day one, he said “Since last year, everything surrounding the sales had been flowing like a motion without movement”.

The latest clog is the recent Abuja Federal High Court order stopping the sale of 9Mobile following a suit filed by a section of shareholders seeking refund of $43.33 million investment because they were shutout in the sales process from the beginning.

Akugah claimed that “The major problem in the sale of the company cannot be far from the actual processing brief given to Barclays Africa in the bidding process”.

“I suspect that Barclays Africa has a lot of veiled issues to explain to Nigerians in the sale of the telecoms which they are not doing right now.

“I recall that Airtel pulled out at a point during the bidding process and made a strong point which even the supervising government agencies including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) failed to investigate and take a deterrent action.

According to him, “Airtel pulled and told Nigerians that it is leaving the bidding process because it is no more convinced that transparency is still within the process as the processors are keeping everybody incommunicado”.

“Today, it is either the reserved bidder is writing a petition on abuse of the process or some shareholders of the company are not allowed to part of the decision of who should buy their investment.

“If you recall, not too long ago, the House of Representative had ordered suspension of the process even though the bid winner had made the initial payment of $50m and was given 90 days to pay up the remaining $450m in order to assume complete ownership.

The expert further raised an issue on why the telecoms regulator is insisting that whoever that emerges new owners must be subjected to its styled integrity test, saying such a caveat in an international bidding of this magnitude shows that there is still something the public is not being told in the 9mobile sales process after all.

Akugah argued that “This is so because NCC can after Teleology Holdings had completed payment within the given 90 days, come out to say that by their findings after integrity test that teleology lacked the technical competence to manage the embattled company and that will be the end of the entire sufferings and efforts so far made by the preferred bidder since last year”.

Continuing, he decried that “There has never been any bidding process in the history of Nigeria enterprises that had faced all 9mobile is facing both in terms of veiled interests and ups and downs and incessant changing of goal posts since last year. In fact, one may not be wrong if he says that the entire process in the sale of 9mobile is designed to fail at the end after all”.

In his final submission, he advised the two regulators involved in the sale process and the current interim board of the company to see how the image of the country can be redeemed as soon as possible because so many foreign investors who are watching this drama are getting confused as troubles are coming up for the company on a weekly basis.

Business Hilights recalls that only earlier this week, aggrieved shareholders  including Afdin Ventures Limited and Dirbia Nigeria Limited, which had claimed to be major investors, complained of being left out in the firm’s decision-making and have demanded a refund of their $43,330,950 investments in a competent court of law. The court has therefore granted their prayers and ordered stoppage of the entire process.

Also, the House of Reps last week, gave similar suspension order following a petition written by one of the losers in the bidding process.

The two shareholding groups had approached a federal High Court in Abuja and filed a legal action in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CR/288/2018, which has Karlington Telecommunications Limited, Premium Telecommunications Holdings NV, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Etisalat International Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) as defendants.

In his ruling, Justice Binta Nyako, after hearing from plaintiffs’ counsel, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) moved an ex-parte motion and ordered that status quo be maintained.

Acceding to the fact that the defendants also ought to be heard, Justice Nyako ordered the service of processes on them, including the third and fifth defendants (First Bank and Etisalat), whose addresses were outside the jurisdiction.

Share details as acquired show that while the 1st plaintiff (Afdin Ventures) “bought 1,300,391 Class A shares at $13,003,910,” which it paid for on August 14, 2009, the 2nd plaintiff (Dirbia Ltd) acquired 3,300,004 Class A shares at $30,030,040, for which it made payment on September 3, 2009.

Whereas all these cross-fire of claims are ongoing, some of the consortium of banks whose money had been trapped has started indicating seriousness to have their money back and nobody for now both the NCC and the CBN is seriously looking into the direction of banks.