Wire Nigeria Project: Suburban wants NCC probed over subsidy to Phase 3 Telecom

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Suburban Limited, a privately owned long distance operator (LDO) has petitioned the Federal Government to probe the nation’s telecoms regulator citing alleged “faulty process and lack of transparency” in a subsidy programme that will benefit two companies, Multilinks-Telkom, a wholly owned subsidiary of South Africa’s Telkom and Phase 3 Telecom, a privately owned telecoms company headquartered in Abuja. According to the petition obtained by Technology Times, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is caught in the centre of fresh row over allegations of non-transparency in the planned disbursement of billions in tax payers’ funds to the two companies under the Wire Nigeria (WIN) programme aimed to subside the build-out of transmission networks in underserved parts of Nigeria. CEO, Suburban Telecom, Bruce Ayonote, said in the petition to Minister of Information and Communications, Dora Akunyili that it has it on “good authority” that NCC has concluded plans to provide the USPF subsidy to the two beneficiaries. Suburban’s key grouse is that Phase 3 Telecom, a company that was not prequalified for the WIN project, has now emerged a winner in the process, in what it cites as the regulator’s lack of commitment to the rules of the game. People conversant with details of the WIN project say that no less than N5billion will be disbursed to the beneficiary to complement the building of optical fibre transmission networks, particularly in areas not considered commercially viable by other telecoms operators. Citing allegations of conducts falling short of NCC’s declared commitment to transparency in its affairs, Suburban has called for a probe: * To investigate the entire process leading up to the award of the WIN Project by the NCC. * To ascertain how a so called transparent process could produce a winning bidder who was never prequalified. * To compel the regulator to uphold its much publicized tenet of “transparency” by adhering to the original process which prequalified three (3) bidders of which Suburban Telecom was one. According to Ayonote, Suburban entered the bids following a February 14, 2007 announcement by NCC calling for bids by long distance operators for the WIN programme and was selected as one of the three pre-qualified bidders. The intention of the NCC was to select suitable companies that would qualify for funding grants to subsidise the rollout of intercity optical fibre backbones to facilitate the penetration of telecoms services, he adds. “Subsequently, we never received any further correspondence from the NCC about its decision on the successful candidates for the WIN program. However, we have it on good authority that the NCC has awarded the WIN Project to Phase 3 Telecom Ltd and Multilinks-Telkom ltd. To date, Suburban has not been informed of the outcome of our bid nor have any reasons been adduced why our bid was not successful. What is more disturbing is that one of the purported winners, Phase 3 Telecom a company which was not prequalified for the final phase of negotiations eventually emerged as a successful bidder”, he added. Phase 3 Telecom has denied being beneficiary of a non-transparent NCC process in the handling of the subsidy to aid the rollout of optical fibre network. CEO, Phase 3 Telecom, Stanley Jegede, told Technology Times in a phone interview that, “we went through a proper and transparent process in which we emerged and that is all that we have say.”