9mobile in Fresh Trouble, Dragged to Court over N4.56b Debt
By Dipo Olowookere
Just when embattled telecommunications giant, 9mobile, is battling hard to get a new investor to take over the company because of its $1.2 billion syndicated loan saga, another trouble is rearing its ugly head.
The firm is currently in a legal tussle over an alleged debt of N4.56 billion in statutory contributions to the Industrial Training Fund (ITF).
According to reports, the crisis-ridden company formerly known as Etisalat is accused of skimping on its statutory contributions between 2011 and 2015 which, according to the calculations of the ITF, amounts to N4.56 billion.
The tech giant is however contesting the figures, claiming that not only does it not owe the ITF any outstanding fees but it is being owed N276 million as balance of its overpayment to the ITF during the period in contention.
The statement of claim filed before the court by 9mobile’s legal representative Funke Adesanya (SAN) rubbished the ITF’s claim, maintaining that rather than the figure being bandied about its due statutory training contribution for 2011-15 amounted to a much smaller N673 million and has been duly paid.
ITF, through its lawyers, has however told the court to dismiss the claims of the defendant for being frivolous, vexatious and lacking merit.
The training agency averred that the sum paid by 9mobile not only falls woefully short of the actual indebtedness but was made only after numerous reminders from the ITF, leading the company to carry out a belated self-assessment of how much it owes.
The ITF is therefore seeking an order of court mandating the telecommunications company to pay in full the sum of N4.56 billion to settle its outstanding statutory training contributions and interest on the said sum at the rate of 5 percent per month on the outstanding debit commencing from July 12, 2017 until judgement is delivered.