It was reported in January that the MTN group had concluded the acquisition of Visafone after “receiving” the final approval of the federal government. It was thought that NCC approved the deal in the last quarter of 2015. However, Ojobo clarified on Tuesday what had been approved was only the transfer of the shareholding structure — not transfer of licence.
“A decision to transfer Visafone licence to MTN has not yet been taken. What has been approved in the transaction is 100% shareholding not licence,” he said. “NCC final approval to the changes in shareholding of Visafone Communications was taken by virtue of section 38 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003.
“Section 38 of the Act states that ‘the grant of a licence shall be personal to the licencee and the licence shall not be operated by, assigned, sub-licenced or transferred to any other party unless the prior written approval of the Commission has been granted’.
“This is contrary to the speculation in a section of the media that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the regulatory agency for telecommunication, had foreclosed the release of the spectrum held by Visafone to MTN. “This clarification has become necessary in order to allay the fears in some quarters that the frequency had been withheld by the Commission.” Ojobo reiterated that the commission had yet to meet to take a decision on the application by Visafone to transfer its licence to MTN.
“The NCC has only approved the shareholding structure by 100% and not transfer of licene,” he said. Specifically, Visafone Communications Limited with a Universal Access Service Licence (UASL) –deploying Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology – applied to the NCC for an approval to effect a change in its shareholding structure by transferring 100% of its shares to MTN Nigeria.
“Having met all the preliminary requirements for grant of approval for change in shareholding structure, the NCC, in line with its established procedure, granted an Approval-In-Principle to Visafone Communications Limited, subject to fulfillment of conditions to transfer 100% of its shares to MTN Nigeria.
“Having fulfilled the conditions stipulated in the “Approval-In-Principle”, the NCC, in line with its procedure granted a “Final-Approval” to Visafone for the change in its shareholding structure. “Thereafter, Visafone applied for approval to transfer its licence to MTN. The NCC has written to Visafone, clearly stating that a decision was yet to be taken on the transfer of Visafone licence to MTN.”