Consumer apprehension as Etisalat Nigeria heads for unknown future

As Etisalat international terminates its management agreement with its Nigerian arm, signally its final pull out, millions of subscribers of the network in Nigeria are getting apprehensive over the uncertain future of the telco.

Etisalat, the Abu Dhabi-owned telecommunications networks has given Etisalat Nigeria three weeks to phase out the brand in the country.

Chief executive officer of Etisalat International, Hatem Dowidar who stated this on Monday, said that there was no need for the brand in Nigeria after the collapse of the loan talks.

This is coming on the heels of a $1.2billion loan default that saw a consortium of banks led by Access Bank taking over the company

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) had to step in to ensure the company did not collapse.

Soon after there was a change of guard as top management staff and the seven-member board of Etisalat Nigeria, including its, chairman, Mr. Hakeem Bello Osagie, resigned from the telecommunication company. His ouster followed what inside sources described as total restructuring of the embattled firm, in line with an accepted plan by the consortium of banks that lent the telcoms company the $1.2 billon in 2013.

Etisalat International announced on Monday that it was pulling out as all UAE shareholders of the company have exited and left the board and management of the Nigerian brand.

It is still unclear how the new development would affect services of the telecommunications company in Nigeria, as Dowidar stated that discussions were ongoing with Etisalat Nigeria to provide technical support, and that it can only use the brand for another three weeks before phasing it out.

Even as many have argued that it may simply be a matter of change of name, others have noted that there are conditions to be met to enable such a change, and wondered if it would be a smooth sail for the Nigerian arm of the company.

There are also fears as to if Etisalat Nigeria would easily be able to replace easily, the technical and managerial knowhow and support that was hitherto provided by the international parent body.

In the heat of the takeover by the banks, NCC Director, Public Affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo had said that the commission was aware of the indebtedness of Etisalat to the consortium, but assured that the network’s integrity would not be compromised amid the loan disagreements.

As a transitional arrangement before final resolution of how to offset the $1.2 billion debt, the CBN Deputy Governor, Mr. Joseph Nnanna, was appointed to serve as Etisalat chairman, while Mr. Boye Olusanya was picked to serve as Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Funke Ighodaro as chief financial officer.

There were also indications that the consortium of 13 banks, which facilitated the loan to the firm was planning to seek the cooperation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to wade into the circumstances that led to the near liquidation of the telecoms outfit despite the funds.

There is yet no official reactions from the company or the regulating agencies over the latest development.

While the tension persists, millions of Nigerians who have been complaining about the services, and unexplained deductions of the telco of late, are still waiting with bated breath to see what the future holds.

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