MTN, Airtel, other telcos risk sanctions as Reps issue final warning

Leah TwakiJune 26, 20246 min

MTN, Airtel are among telcos that have continued to evade invitations by the House of Representatives Committee. They have been given last warning or face sanction

Corporate social responsibility

The House of Representatives Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has threatened to invoke sanctions on MTN, Airtel and other telecommuncation companies (telcos) operating in the country. The reason is that the companies have declined to honour several  invitations extended by the commitee.

Chairman of the committee, Rep. Obiageli Lilian Orogbu (LP, Anambra) handed down the warning at a public hearing on a bill to regulate CSR in Nigeria which held at the National Assembly on Tuesday. 

Rep. Orogbu also frowned at the National Communications Commission (NCC) for failing to honour several invitations of the committee, saying the panel will not hesitate to evoke its powers and issue a warrant of arrest on officials of the telcos and the regulator.

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Citing Section 89 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which mandates parliament with the powers of oversight, the lawmaker expressed disdain over the situation, saying: they break the law and I want to tell you Sir , MTN, Airtel they take so much from our nation and they feel too big to appear before the parliament we will not tolerate that.”

She emphasized how responsible businesses prioritize the well-being of their employees, communities and how lack of clear guidelines has led to inconsistency and sometimes inadequate CSR practices.

Speaking further to the NCC representatives, she said: “I want you as a regulatory body to organise those telecommunication companies; we gave them the powers to operate in Nigeria so to refuse to honour the invitation of the parliament is a no, no; we take exception to it. The parliament is frowning at it and this is an opportunity to say clearly.”

In a presentation at the hearing, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, opposed a proposal for imprisoning defaulting companies in the bill. Represented by CBN Assistant Director, Mr. Philip Wondi Ndanusa, the governor suggested that persuasion, rather than penalties, should be used to encourage companies to adopt CSR practices.

Ndanusa also noted that many companies are already burdened with significant financial responsibilities and proposed that CSR oversight should be handled by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Responding Rep. Orogbu argued that stricter measures are required, emphasizing the necessity of fines to enforce corporate responsibility. “Many companies persistently default, and without penalties, they won’t take their obligations seriously,” she insisted.

Similarly, the representative of the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS) of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Bala Wuoir, expressed concern that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) has already mandated oil companies operating in Nigeria to make financial contribution of 3% of their profit to host communities trust funds and so mandating them on CSR will be burdensome. He therefore called for the exemption of oil companies from the bill.

However, Orogbu maintained that no exemptions would be granted, reiterating that all companies must report their CSR activities to ensure better coordination and regulation. “This bill seeks to provide a legal framework for corporate responsibility, ensuring that all sectors contribute effectively,” she stated.

Speaking earlier, Speaker of the House, who was represented by Majority Leader Rep. Julius Ihonvbere (APC, Edo), emphasized the importance of public engagement in the legislative process. He urged stakeholders to provide meaningful contributions during the hearing to shape the final bill.

Public hearings allow citizens to participate in lawmaking, especially on issues with significant public impact. Your insights and suggestions are crucial,” Ihonvbere stated

However, Rep. Ihonvbere equally issued a stern warning to companies and agencies that habitually disregard invitations from the National Assembly.

He said: “This has become a recurring culture in this country; people disregard the National Assembly’s invitation and when decisions are taken they begin to formulate stories or have hearsays instead of coming to the National Assembly with our open door policy to ensure that you get the real facts. The National Assembly takes full and total exception to companies that think they are above the law.”

What you need to know about CSR

CSR is a management concept that describes how a company contributes to the well-being of communities and society through environmental and social measures. Some examples of CSR include Environmental CSR which involves companies providing environmental stewardship by reducing pollution and emissions in manufacturing, recycling materials, replenishing natural resources like trees. Ethical CSR requires companies giving fair treatment to employees and other stakeholders regardless of age, race, culture, or sexual orientation, favorable pay and benefits for employees.

 

STAR Check: Nigerians, particularly, constituents of Awka North/Awka South federal constituency, can keep tabs on the legislative performance of Rep. Orugbo throughout the 10th House here

Leah Twaki

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