Journalism of Courage

Contempt of court: TCN MD risks jail term over concession agreement

Abuja- A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has issued a summon on the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr. Usman Gur Mohammed, to appear before it on Thursday September 5, 2019 to explain why he should not be sent to jail for disobeying its order restraining TCN from shutting down plants and machinery belonging to Phase3 Telecom Limited.

The court had on May 28, 2018 categorically restrained TCN from shutting down plants and instruments of the independent Fibre Optic infrastructure belonging to the telecommunications services provider, pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed by the telecom firm.

The court also stopped Mr. Mohammed from acting on the letter by TCN dated August 30, 2017, purportedly terminating the agreement between it and Phase3 Telecom on March 20, 2006 to design, build, finance and operate the Fibre Optic Telecommunications Infrastructure (Phase3 Concession agreement), pending the determination of the substantive suit.

The Abuja High Court had on Friday August 16, 2019, gave an order granting leave to Phase3 Telecom to effect service of form 49 (notice to show cause why order no: R/N 11623088 and 11623089 should not be made) on TCN and its MD, Mohammed, who are being sought to be committed to prison for contempt by substituted means.

The court also ordered that the applicant should serve Mohammed and TCN the committal to prison notice by pasting the processes at the head office of TCN at Plot 441 Zambezi Crescent, Maitama, Abuja, including publishing it as adverts in some key newspapers.

Independence Day

TCN had on March 20, 2006 signed an agreement with Phase3 to design, build, finance and operate the Fibre optical cable telecommunication infrastructure. In a letter dated August 30, 2017 and addressed to the management of Phase3 Telecom Limited, the TCN had cancelled the agreement, citing breach of contract terms.

The telecom company had repeatedly denied breach of the terms of agreement, insisting on the ownership of the fibre optic infrastructure.

He said despite inheriting a non-existent fiber optic network from TCN, the concessionaires, comprising of Phase3 Telecom Ltd and Alheri Engineering Services, has so far deployed a total of over 3, 000km and installed state-of-art fiber optic equipment at the whopping sum of $100 million as capital and operating expenditure on building the infrastructure.

Phase3 Telecom said TCN has continued to make all the unfounded allegations in an attempt to resist the harmonization of right of way charges for deployment of fiber optic cables as agreed and communicated by the National Economic Council (NEC) towards affordable broadband services in the country.

Regulators and industry experts have said this runs contrary to the efforts of the Federal Government aimed at providing the enabling environment for private sector investments to grow the economy.

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