Funds Repatriation: IHS, ATC, Airtel Rejects NCC’s Corporate Governance Policy
Fred Omotara, Lagos
Some telecommunications operators in Nigeria have rejected the Corporate Governance provision by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the repatriation of funds.
Prominent among the telco’s who rejected the NCC’s corporate governance on funds repatriation includes foreign-owned operators such as IHS Nigeria, ATC Nigeria, and Airtel Nigeria.
The operators during a public inquiry on the draft guidelines voiced their displeasure on the provision that licensees must obtain written approval from the telecom regulator before they can repatriate funds.
They argued that the provision would discourage investments even as it contradicts existing laws on the repatriation of funds by foreign companies operating in Nigeria.
Section 14 (16) of the Corporate Governance Guidelines published by the NCC, which the operators are frowning at states states that: “The Board shall ensure a licensee seeking to repatriate funds over 30% of its annual net profit shall obtain the prior written approval of the Commission.”
In its written submission during the inquiry, a tower company, ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Limited, stated that, “Repatriation of funds ensures that foreign investors successfully reap the dividend of their investment (particularly when the licensee has mainly foreign investors). Waiting for the approval of the NCC before funds are repatriated will lead to investor dissatisfaction and affect the smooth operation of the company.
“We respectfully suggest that the approval of the NCC be obtained where the repatriation involves a significant amount that might jeopardize the company’s operations. The repatriation threshold that would require the approval of NCC be fixed at 80%.”
Expressing similar concern over the same provision, Airtel Nigeria in its submission to the regulator said the Section 14(16) Guidelines are in contravention of Section 15(4) of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act Chapter F34, 1995 18 which guarantees unrestrictive transferability of returns from Foreign Direct Investment.
“It is also at variance with the Federal Government’s policy guaranteeing 100% repatriation of profit from investments in the country.
“This pre-approval requirement from the Regulator to repatriate more than 30% of net profit could discourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the industry.
Responding, the NCC said that,  “it is currently reviewing capital and other ratios for its licensees, which will be taken into account in further review of this provision,”
According to the company, the provision has far-reaching implications and would only create bottlenecks and discourage investments, both local and foreign.
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