Perhaps, crises make Pioneer telecommunications company, Mobitel, stronger. The company since it announced interest for a comeback to active telecommunications operations, with the bidding and subsequent winning and payment of the controversial 2.3Ghz Wimax spectrum license recently, has itself been in and out of controversies.
It began with strong suspicions from government quarters, over how Mobitel, a company that recently applied for a waiver to the allegedly mountainous debts it was owing the federal government, could pay the 2.3Ghz licence money amounting to over One billion Naira, within one week.
Incidentally, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC came into the matter, whisking the Chief Executive of Mobitel, Mr Johnson Salako away, alleging that the waiver it got from NCC was gotten from the wrong quarters.
But last week, the court saw no reason why Salako would be in detention and ordered his immediate release.
Smarting from all that controversy, the company has announced plans to roll out services October this year and Salako has said that he was ready to put away the frustrations and trauma he went through during his eight days incarceration by the Economic and Financial crimes commission, EFCC, just to see that Mobitel rolls out cutting edge services that would bail Nigerians out of the telecommunications woods.
Salako was speaking at a press conference in Victoria Island organised to clarify issues surrounding Mobitelâ€™s involvement in the estranged 2.3 Ghz Wimax licensing round concluded by the Nigerian Communications Commission NCC recently.
He was arrested by the EFCC over waiver granted his company by the NCC on the debt owed by the former management of Mobitel to the federal government.
According to Salako, â€œour focus now is to get the 2.3 Ghz license which we duly won and move on to providing Nigerians cutting edge services that would change things in the telecommunications life of this country. We do not want to join issues with any body be it the EFCC, NCC or the Ministry of Communications and I am putting my experience in the eight days incarceration behind just to see that Nigerians have the services we promisedâ€ he noted.
The detention of Mr Salako by the EFCC came as a result of allegations that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) acted wrongly in granting the former management of Mobitel a waiver over its outstanding fiduciary responsibilities to the Federal Government.
Meanwhile, Mobitel has sued the EFCC and the NCC, praying the court to determine whether it was under a lawful obligation to pay the bill inaccurately assessed in the Sum of N747,945,463 in excess of the N500,000,000 already paid by Mobitel to the government and otherwise declare that it is under no obligation to pay the sum of N298,678,250m included inÂ the NCCâ€™s bill to Mobitel for the Sum of N727,945,463 to the federal government.
In the suit, Mobitel also prayed the court to declare that the waiver and or concession granted it by NCC was in respect of fees that had not accrued.
Among many other wishes of Mobitel was that the court declared that EFCC lacks the powers and competence to recover the said sum of N242, 775,00 as outstanding fees from Mobitel.
However, the company has vowed that while the court case is going on, its primary obligation to the Nigerian masses must be carried out and so, slated October for roll out of ubiquitous services.
The readiness of Mobitel to commence operations in the highly competitive Nigerian market, may after all not be in doubt. Between the time the USMi group acquired the moribund mobitel and now, it has taken bold moves betraying a deliberate plan to challenge the mainstream players in the telecoms market today.
The management of Mobitel revealed that it had awarded contracts worth over $15 million to two companies, VocalTec and Alvarion to provide first phase of cutting edge VoIP platform and 50 base stations in four main Nigerian cities, respectively.
Mobile Week also gathered that the company had signed agreements with infrastructure maintenance/management companies, IHS and Helios Towers to prepare it for collocation . This is in addition to its business romance with Phase3 telecom on national transmission network as well as multi-million dollar contracts with Gateway Communications and also MainOne cable company for 5 year provision of 2.3Gbit fibre optic.
Perhaps its strength could be coming from a consortium of banks led by Skye bank, which was said to have generated additional financing recently, bringing the companyâ€™s investment to well over $100 million.