Telecoms companies under the auspices of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria have dragged the National Assembly to court over its incessant summons of their chief executive officers.
The companies, which filed a legal action at the Federal High Court in Abuja, also demanded an explanation on the specific nature of information, which the National Assembly could lawfully request from private companies.
The association also sought to know the extent of the National Assembly’s oversight functions over private companies, particularly telecommunications firms, and the specific nature of directives that could be made by it pursuant to the outcome of its investigative activities.
Other prayers by ALTON include a declaration on the proprietary of the National Assembly to issue the summons and insist that its members were represented by their CEOs and not senior management officials, whose job functions deal with the subject matters of investigation.
The association also asked for an order restraining the parliament from serving any further summons on telecommunication companies pending the determination of the suit.
While addressing journalists in Lagos on Sunday, the ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, stated that the judicial move became necessary as telecom firms’ CEOs had become inundated with incessant summons from different committees of the National Assembly to appear before them.
He noted that the insistence on the attendance of the CEOs at such sessions without considering that other senior management members of staff might be better versed and suited to answer whatever queries the lawmakers had had negatively impacted on the ability of the executives to focus on their business operations.
Adebayo observed that part of the requested information bordered on information within the purview of specific government agencies, which the parliament could easily request the agencies to provide.
Such information, according to him, involves evidence of tax remittances to the government since the commencement of members’ operations, or confidential information which members should not be obliged to provide, such as the list of all employees and their current remuneration packages.
Adebayo said, “We have the regulator, which is the Nigerian Communications Commission, established by the Act of parliament, and we have the Ministry of Communications, which oversees the industry on behalf of the Presidency. We are private companies and the funds we administer in our organisation are not appropriated by the Federal Government. It is out of place to receive an invitation from the parliament to come and explain funds related to OPEX or CAPEX.
“It is out of place for the parliament to ask us to explain details of our payroll and why we pay workers what we pay them. It is also out of place for the parliament to ask us to bring a list of taxes we have paid when there is the Federal Inland Revenue Service, an agency of government charged with tax collection.”