By Omobayo Azeez
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has commenced the implementation of the Accounting Separation Framework (ASF) in the Nigerian telecoms industry effective from July 15, 2020.
This is to ensure transparency and accountability in regard to effective regulation and prevention of anti-competitive behaviour, the commission said in a statement signed Tuesday by Ikechukwu Adinde, its director of public affairs.
NCC said this is in line with its commitment to the creation of an enabling environment for competition among operators in the industry to ensure the provision of qualitative and efficient telecoms services as stipulated in Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003.
The policy document, “Determination on the Implementation of an Accounting Separation Framework for the Nigerian Telecoms Industry”, was developed via a consultative process in 2015.
Since then, it had undergone a comprehensive review by the regulator in collaboration with telecoms licensees and other critical industry stakeholders.
With the commencement of the implementation of the framework, telecoms licensees are, henceforth, obligated to submit their Regulatory Financial Statement (RFS) to the Commission in line with the new ASF, within seven months after the end of the licensees’ financial year, according to the commission.
The commission, however, stated that submission of RFS in line with the new framework, is currently limited to and mandatory for only six telecom licensees, adding that this will subsist for an initial period of two years after which the regulator may review the list to include other operators.
The six licensees are the four mobile network operators (MNOs) – Airtel Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited (9Mobile), Globacom Nigeria; and two infrastructure companies (Infracos) – MainOne Cable Company Limited and IHS Nigeria.
Umar Danbatta, the executive vice chairman of the NCC expressed optimism about the framework noting that “the new ASF will promote an industry environment that fosters open and transparent financial reporting, while ensuring that charges for telecom services are cost-based and non-discriminatory.”
Adducing reasons for limiting compliance to six operators for now, the EVC said the decision was taken to ensure necessary structure is in place for reviewing and analysing the accounts before applying the new framework to all licensees in the industry.
Danbatta, however, stated that any other licensee willing to prepare its financial statements in line with the new framework is allowed to voluntarily do so.
He added that the commission may also exercise its discretion to demand that a licensee prepare and submit separated account where it is determined that the activities of such a service provider are deemed critical to the overall well-being of the Nigerian telecoms industry.
Therefore, for full and effective implementation of the framework, every operator under the ambit of accounting separation is required to prepare an Operator-specific Accounting Separation Manual (OASM) containing policies, principles, methodologies and procedures for accounting and cost allocation, which must be submitted to the commission on or before October 30, 2020 for regulatory approval.
Licensees shall also be required to prepare their financial and non-financial reports in line with the Guidelines for the ASF while reports shall be furnished by the licensees for every account year beginning from the 2020 financial year end.
Also, as part of operators’ licensing conditions, the Commission requires licensees to prepare, in respect of each complete financial year or of such lesser periods as may be specified, separated accounting statements for all their activities.
According to Danbatta, the commission considers the Accounting Separation Framework “as an effective, least evasive and less costly solution to implement to meet its regulatory objectives.”
He added that the implementation of the Framework is also a key deliverable for the Commission in the new National Broadband Plan (NBP), 2020-2025.”
The EVC said that the NCC took into consideration the inputs from industry stakeholders and has provided capacity-building for operators and for relevant staff of the commission to ensure seamless implementation of the Framework.
He further reiterated the commitment of the Commission towards continually developing policies, initiatives and programmes aimed at boosting healthy competition among telecoms operators in the country to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy efficient and affordable telecom services.