Confession of Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, EVC NCC

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This Day Newspaper edition of Thursday, March 4, 2010 carried an exclusive interview with Mr. Ernest Ndukwe, EVC of NCC where Mr. Ndukwe, for the first time admitted that the Unified Access License is to all intent and purposes the same as a National Carrier License. This last minute or dying day's confession by Mr. Ndukwe, have far reaching implications and consequences. A major implication of this confession is that the recent disqualification of the bid of Globacom in the recent opening of the Financial Bids for the sale of NITEL/M-tel while MTN was allowed to participate is grossly flawed and opens the bid process to nullification if GLO applies for a judicial review. The other major implication is that NCC allowed MTN and others to Install Long distance Transmission Networks during the EXCLUSIVITY period of NITEL and GLO National Carrier Licenses without paying any licensing fees in contravention of the prevailing Laws and deliberately denying NITEL and GLO the revenues that they should have made from other telecommunications operators during the EXCLUSIVITY period. This is not to mention the hundreds of billions of naira denied NITEL through fraudulent Interconnection Agreement which I have placed in the public domain for several years and which NCC has never denied.

In answering This Day question on the SABI (State Accelerated Broadband Initiative) Mr. Ndukwe answered in part that “People keep talking about GLO being a second national carrier, but the truth is that since we transited to the Universal Access Service License Regime I don't think that there is any License that GLO has that MTN does not have…” This statement confirms my repeated warnings for several years that Mr Ndukwe was fooling Nigerians and, instead of only 2 National Carriers NCC was pretending to have licenced, NCC has actually Licensed 15 National Carriers, not counting other long distance operators, under misleading names for manipulative and fraudulent intent. I therefore invite Nigerians to compare this statement with the advice the same Mr. Ndukwe gave to the National Council on Privatization (NCP) through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to the effect that allowing GLO to purchase NITEL will amount to GLO acquiring two National Carrier Licenses but not MTN which Ndukwe now admits has ALL the Licenses GLO possesses! This was the basis for disqualifying GLO and allowing MTN to bid. I spent 30 years in the Public Service, Department of Posts and Telecommunications (P&T) and NITEL, with 21 of those years in Senior Management positions and I know that the most serious offence a Public Officer could commit, next to fraud, is to deliberately mislead Government which Mr. Ndukwe has done in his advice through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to the NCP Chaired by the Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, on the sale of NITEL. The resulting disqualification of GLO can render the whole process a nullity if GLO decides to seek redress in court on its disqualification. The timing of the present revelation by Ndukwe could be interpreted as giving GLO a deliberate reason to thwart the sale of NITEL by challenging their disqualification in court. Ndukwe is one of the most disappointed vested interests in the very fair and high bid price for NITEL by the New Generation Consortium from his various disparaging comments on NITEL.

To appreciate the Licensing fraud that NCC manipulated the Global concept of Universal Access Service (UAS) for, a brief basic definition of UAS will be necessary. Universal Service (US) is Promoting or maintaining of “universal” availability of connections by individual households to public telecommunications networks, Universal Access (UA) is Providing to every person a reasonable means of access to a publicly available telecommunication centers. The Universality Policy refer to both US and UA as Universal Access Service. The common objective is to provide or maintain service to those who would not normally be served such as people living in Rural Areas, Lower Income People, and People with physical disabilities, and so on. It is very clear from the forgoing International Telecommunications Union accepted definition of Universal Access Service that the UAS is for Universal Access to Local Access Networks and not to make ALL telecommunications Operators core network providers or National Carriers as NCC has fraudulently done as long as the Operator can pay the UNDER and OVER the Counter NCC charges.

Meanwhile it should by now have been apparent that NCC has become a telecommunications operator and gets enmeshed in the award of contracts for the Installation, Maintenance and Operation of 36 Emergency Communication Centers, one in each state of the Federation, in competition with the Rural Telephony and other telecommunications providers. The Universal Access Concept expects the Regulator, NCC to issue Universal Access Licenses to qualified and interested investors or compel major telecommunications operators to provide local access to non economic areas as part of their social responsibility. Instead Mr. Ndukwe led NCC turned the Universal Access Licensing Regime in Nigeria to become an Operator as well and also use the same back door to legalize the illegal exemptions granted to some telecommunications Operators as far back as 2003 in violation of the Exclusivity Period of NITEL and GLO licenses while hiding under section 31 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 here after referred to as The Act. This is the main reason NCC could not dare put its so called Unified Access Licenses to Public Auction.

In 2001, the moment Mr. Ndukwe masterminded the fraudulent change of 1997 Interconnection Agreement of which he was a major participant during negotiations, NITEL no longer had the capacity to generate funds to expand its Local Access and most especially the Core Transmission Backbone Network on which all other operators then depended being the First and only National Carrier. Soon after, the Major Operators started complaining that NITEL could no longer meet their Core Network (traffic conveyance) requirements. In 2003 though NITEL had serious financial constraints in expanding its Network, GLO had already rolled out a substantial part of its core network. Rather than send the telecommunications operators to GLO for their Core network requirements as the Second National Carrier or even other licensed or authorized carriers such as NNPC or Railways, Ndukwe chose to grant them Exemption from licensing to set up their own Core Network. This was in flagrant violation of NITEL and GLO exclusivity period which was valid until 2007. Ndukwe also in effect granted the Operators Waivers from paying licensing fees for which NITEL and GLO paid more than 200 million US Dollars each for the same privilege. Granting Waivers by NCC is not therefore confined to the Mobitel saga as most Nigerians are made to believe. Mr. Ndukwe cared less for the huge financial losses he caused the Nigerian Federation Account or GLO by this decision. There is no evidence that GLO as the Second National Carrier was even consulted on their ability to provide core services to the operators. To NITEL this decision made no difference since the fraudulent Interconnection Agreement has made NITEL lose ALL the revenues it was expected to make on its extensive transmission Networks.

The exemption and tax waivers granted to some Operator was manifestly illegal because it was well within the exclusivity period of the Licenses of NITEL and GLO. It was also at a time NCC refused bluntly to honour the directive of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces to issue a license to NigComSat. NCC did not even consider respecting Mr. President by granting the same Exemption it granted to a private company without prodding to NigComSat. Meanwhile the Operators used the NCC exemption to cause extensive damages to NITEL Transmission networks especially the Optic Fiber Cables. Ndukwe ignored protests by NITEL which forced NITEL to go public with a cry of sabotage but this had no effect. In fact Ndukwe was instrumental in the inability of NITEL to receive any compensation for the damages. This is not surprising because the exemptions, granted by Ndukwe led NCC, are major causes of the present deplorable state of Nigerian Roads. All these pale into insignificance if Nigerians can appreciate how many lives have been lost due to the complete indifference of NCC to the indiscriminate Installation of telecommunication masts. I felt so sad recently on reading the agony of a top official of the Ministry of the environment lamenting that a Nigerian encourages foreigners to break Nigerian Laws with the indiscriminate installation of Radio Masts or towers. We know who that Nigerian is.

NITEL and GLO National Carrier Licenses exclusivity period expired in 2007. NCC then used the expiration of NITEL and GLO Exclusivity period to announce what was celebrated as a new Licensing Regime called the Universal or Unified Access Licenses when in actual fact they knew they were only trying to legalize the illegality of exemptions granted to some operators in 2003 to encroach and engage in National Carrier Services. But what is founded on illegality cannot stand by whatever means and crime is not expected to pay except in the minds of Ndukwe and other NCC principal officers. With Mr. Ndukwe's confession equity demands that NCC is sanctioned for issuing illegal licences under false pretences.

It was this web of deceit and illegality that prevented NCC from the public auction of the so called Universal or Unified Access Licenses which in actual fact are National Carrier Licenses. If a public auction had been held those operators who have built networks based on the illegal exemptions during NITEL and GLO exclusivity period may have lost in the bidding process and would be forced to sell their illegal plants or networks to those who win the open bids. This was why NCC negotiated UNDER and OVER the Counter fees with these illegal operators, while deceiving Nigerians that Unified Access License cost 150 million US dollars for ANY operator ready to pay, when by open bid the offers may have tripled that amount knowing full well that it was actually a National Carrier License that was on offer.

The transgressions of the recently suspended Director General of BPE, Christopher Anyanwu are nothing compared to the barefaced economic financial crimes and deceit of Nigerians by NCC and its Principal Officers. I will not be surprised if no action is taken against NCC principal officers because in Nigeria “Camels” pass through the eye of a needle.

South Africa has also adopted the Universal Access Service global concept but that has not made South Africa to use that policy to convert Local Access Operators to National Carriers. MTN which has been operating as a Mobile Telephone Operator for almost two decades in South Africa remains only a mobile operator. MTN was not even granted South Africa's Second National Carrier Status which was approved last year. But in Nigeria MTN and other operators became effectively Nigeria's National Telephony Carriers since 2003, by dubious exemptions only two years after they commenced operations in Nigeria.

Because of the unpatriotic or purchased Nigerian Mass Media Conspiracy, Nigerians have generally been kept in the dark on the unacceptable and massive corruption at the Nigerian Communications Commission.

In the same interview with This day Mr. Ndukwe commented on the Interconnection Agreements. He would only acknowledge the Fraudulent Interconnection Agreements that were introduced from 2001 which deliberately violated section 108 4e of the Act with intent to launder NITEL finances and render it bankrupt. Nigerians should be aware that Mr. Ndukwe was a major participant in the negotiations that led to the 1997 Agreement he pretends does not exist. I have been in contact with NITEL scheduled officers of Akintola Williams Deloitte Touch, and Price Water House who have been contracted for several years now to audit NITEL. They confirmed that despite their several demands, NITEL has refused to hand over a copy or admit the existence of the 1997 Agreement negotiated for over three years and finally approved by the Head of State and Signed by the former Managing Director of NITEL Professor Bajoga with several operators. Also most other documents, especially unverified invoices settled by NITEL and details of circuits leased by NITEL to Private Operators for which no money was paid appeared to have vanished into thin air. That the Federal Government could tolerate the refusal by NITEL officials to submit relevant documents to auditors which forced BPE to treat NITEL financial Assets and Liabilities as a separate issue and not included in the Due Diligence by investors, is very surprising.

It is sad, but to discerning well informed telecommunications observers Ndukwe's legacies will be nothing to write home about. In ten years of Mr. Ndukwe's leadership Nigeria went down from only 400,000 and relatively secured land lines to become the only Country in the world without a single land line. Wireless fixed local access lines are not land lines. Ndukwe presided over the installation of 70million unsecured gsm or wireless access lines making Nigeria's Telecommunications Space the most prone to espionage in the world. It is only the Nigerian President that I know of that has to use unsecured mobile public switched telephone for Governance. Of Ndukwe's celebrated $18bn investment in the telecommunications sector, more than $5bn is fraudulently diverted NITEL revenue. Another $2bn lost to import duty waivers by the Ndukwe inspired classification of gsm Operators as Manufacturing instead of Service Industry. The wanton damages to roads will cost the Federal Government more than $5bn to repair. The social cost on citizens' health because of uncontrolled and unsupervised radiation and degradation to environment by indiscriminate installation of masts is not quantifiable. Of the Millions of jobs Ndukwe celebrates as being created more than 95% are street hawking of Recharge Cards which Mr. Ndukwe himself will not wish for any of his children. This is not to mention the fact that with the ravaging poverty in Nigeria, telephone tariffs in Nigeria is the highest in the world. With Nigerians' inverted values Nigerians would rather buy recharge cards and slowly starve themselves to death and their Government that should come to their rescue turns a blind eye in the name of foreign investment. Mr. Ndukwe is therefore displaying gross Management naivety by his regular celebration of unaudited and unverified $18bn investment in the telecommunications sector.

I do not expect Mr. Ndukwe to use hack writers to contest my claims as he has done before. Hack writers do not address issues they only create diversions from real issues. I will expect him to invite the Federal Government that appointed him to set up a panel to probe the serious allegations or revelations in this memo.

To Nigerians, I say SHINE YOUR EYES.

By Solomom Ogundele