Nigeria’s Dangote risks loss of USD150m amid NCC probe of dormant 3G licence

Telecoms

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has commenced a regulatory probe into a 3G services licence granted to Alheri Engineering, a subsidiary of the Dangote Group, owned by billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote.

Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Ernest Ndukwe, in an interview with the Technology Times confirmed the regulatory probe underway by the telecoms regulator into the continued dormancy of the 3G licence more than a year after it was issued Dangote-owned Alheri.

According to Ndukwe, NCC has written to the company to seek explanations for the continued dormancy of the US$150 million licence issued March 19, 2007, “and the public will be kept abreast of the development.”

Last year, the big three mobile phone companies, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Celtel Nigeria Limited (now rebranded Zain Nigeria) and Globacom Limited alongside little-known Alheri Engineering were each issued 3G licences at $150m per spectrum raking some $600m into government coffers.

However, the Dangote Group did not comment on the issue when Technology Times called to confirm the company’s response to the development.

According to Ndukwe, “usually, when we conduct auctions, you know that auctions make it possible for people to buy spectrum based on a very competitive level, and we really don’t sanction as such for people who don’t meet whatever target, because they are the ones losing more than anybody. We have initiated moves to contact the operator that has been licensed and if we don’t get any satisfactory action or responses, we might consider re-offering the spectrum to the market, because it is a very valuable spectrum and cannot be left unutilised over too long a time.”

In 2006, NCC had announced its intention to license four available spectrum lots in the 2 GHz bands to facilitate the development of the communications industry. Following the Commission’s advert for Expressions of Interest in February 2007, 17 companies responded. An auction was not conducted as the four companies that expressed interest were awarded the four licences.

According to NCC, “the four applicants’ submissions were evaluated with respect to the compliance details outlined in the Information Memorandum. Each applicant was found to have been fully compliant. In these circumstances, where the number of applicants matches the number of lots, no further allocation process is required.”

Technology Times