The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) has given the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a 14-day ultimatum to delist some members of the newly constituted board of MTN Nigeria.
In a petition sent to Mary Uduk, the acting director-general of SEC, HEDA said the new board members were “picked to offer the South African communications concern undue advantage in Nigeria’s political and economic environment”.
The listed board members are Ernest Ndukwe, former chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) now MTN chairman; Muhammad Ahmed, former chairman of the technical committee of the Nigerian Code on Corporate Governance; Omobola Johnson, a former minister for communication; and Ifueko Okauru, a former chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
HEDA said the appointments are an attempt to “insulate MTN from adverse local political action given its recent history with the regulatory agency, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF”.
“It was reported that major mobile companies in Nigeria were fined by the NCC for failure to adhere to the law and were given a week to deactivate unregistered lines,” the petition signed by Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA chairman, read.
“It was reported that while other mobile firms complied, MTN flouted the regulator’s instructions, leaving 5.2 million unregistered users on its network and the fine was due on November 17, 2015, but MTN managed to secure a cover-up and delayed fines until a new management and government came into office.
“It is a complete show of irony that Mr Ernest Ndukwe who was the Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission during the MTN infractions, the regulatory body solely responsible for the business activities of telecommunications and Mrs Mobolaji Johnson as the Communication Minister at the time of this infractions will be selected as the designate chairman and Board Member respectively by the telecommunication company.
“Mrs Okauru was chairman of FIRS when the allegations of MTN Nigeria’s tax evasion of over $2 billion relating to import duties, VAT, withholding tax on foreign import/payments were revealed and despite this it was reported that tranches of transfers were discovered to have been made to companies in Dubai and Mauritius as reported by Satellite Times on the 8th October, 2018 and these allegations under the nose of the former chairman was consequent upon the failure of the FIRS to undertake diligent and effective supervision and no record of investigations to confirm the authenticity or otherwise while in office.
“It is our firm belief that these persons who were once public office holders who ought to have acted against some activities and alleged infractions of this company but failed in their responsibilities and capacities are now being compensated with appointments into the board.”
Quoting rule 601 (5), HEDA said SEC is empowered by the Securities and Exchange Commission rules and regulations of 2013 to impose sanctions on registered companies and listed removal of executive officers as one of the sanctions that can be imposed.
The non-governmental organisation threatened that it would demand performance of its request in a court of law if no action is taken within 14 days of its petition.