Nigeria: The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arrested and grilled the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, over allegations that the Licensing of National Frequencies in the 2.3GHz band was fraught with fraud
Officials of the anti-graft commission picked up Ndukwe in Abuja early yesterday following several petitions received by the Presidency, faulting the process that led to the emergence of three companies out of the 40 that expressed interest in obtaining the four licences that were up for grabs.
Each of the companies coughed out N1, 368,000,000 for a licence.
EFCC Spokesman Femi Babafemi confirmed to THISDAY that the commission had picked up Ndukwe to answer to the allegations.
One of the allegations against NCC was in respect of Mobitel, one of the successful applicants who were able to raise and pay the N1.3 billion in less than five days.
Only in October last year, Mobitel was said to be indebted to the commission to the tune of N246 million, which it was unable to pay, forcing NCC to waive a total of N243 million debt for the company and leaving a balance of N3 million for the firm to pay.
Mobitel has faced a lot of challenges that threatened its existence since its President and CEO, Alaba Joseph, died in his office in 2005 following a failed bid by the receiver appointed by Intercon-tinental Bank to take over the company.
Ndukwe was also accused of spending beyond the budget limit and misleading the Federal Government into the award of contracts for community information centres in some states in the country.
The licensing of the 2.3GHz band, which was slated to fetch the Federal Government over N5 billion has been embroiled in controversy with petitions to the Presidency and the commission on the conduct of the exercise.
One of the petitions called for a thorough investigation and alleged that Galaxy Wireless, one of the companies that scaled through actually paid only one per cent of the stipulated funds.
Some firms who lost out in the race to acquire the licences also faulted the commission on how the whole process was done especially the one week timeframe given to prospective clients within which to cough out the money.
The main grouse of the petitioners was that the five working days grace given by the commission was inadequate.
They stated that at this period of global recession, five working days were grossly inadequate to raise the amount required and that some of those who were able to meet the deadline must have had prior notice and were waiting with the funds to effect the payment.
But NCC moved to lay the allegations to rest last night.
The commission announced the closure of offer for the licensing of four slots of 20 MHz each in the 2.3 GHz frequency band and stated that Galaxy Wireless was not awarded a licence because it did not meet the conditions for the offer of licence by not paying the required price for the slot.
In its statement, NCC announced the three winners to include Multilinks, Mobitel Nigeria Ltd and Spectranet Ltd.
Three out of the 40 applicants short-listed for the exercise, paid the fixed price of N1, 368,000,000 for each of the four slots on offer, bringing the total sum realised from the spectrum sale to N4,104,000,000.
The 40 companies which took part in the offer included Oxygen Broadband Netw-orks, Multi-Links Nigeria Ltd., VDT Broadband Communications Ltd., Gam-jitel, Linkserve, Monarch Communications Ltd., Foris Telecoms Nig. Ltd., Connect Centre Dot Net, Amsco Telecoms (Naija Wifi), Moorside Nig Ltd, Hoval Technologies Ltd, Mobitel Limited, Comium Data Limited, G-Max Broadband, Solution and Systems Ltd, Reliance Globacom International, Westcom Wireless, NG COM, Yentech Services Ltd and Anas Network Services Ltd.
Others were Vangate Limited, Accelon Nigeria Ltd., Ladan Communications Ltd., VOIX Networks Ltd., Choffan Communications Ltd, Softnet Global Network, Rahaman Communications Ltd, I-Comms Integrated Networks, Galaxy Wireless Communications Ltd., Dan-will Communications Ltd, VDT Communications, One Communication Ltd., Spec-tranet Ltd., City Wireless World Ltd., Smile Comm-unication Nigeria Ltd., Wideways Nigeria Ltd., Bod-Gee Ventures Ltd, Inmarches Communications Ltd and Starnet Telecoms Ltd.