UAE's Etisalat set to invest $500m in Nigeria amid claims of sabotage

Etisalat complains of sabotage to its network in Nigeria, having been fined Dh8.4 million for poor service.

Recharge cards from different phone companies on a street in Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photos/Sunday Alamba).
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Etisalat plans to pump US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) into its Nigerian operation after having been fined for poor service in the west African nation amid allegations of sabotage of its network.

The UAE operator, which has more than 12 million subscribers in Nigeria, said its service had been hit by an intermittent electricity supply and deliberate damage.

The biggest problem in Nigeria is "the absence of reliable power", Etisalat said.

"Allied to this challenge is the regular damage and cuts to the fibre networks due to roadworks and in some cases sabotage," it added.

Nigerian authorities on Saturday imposed a cumulative 1.17bn Nigerian naira (Dh27.1m) on local operators, accusing them of failing to meet minimum service standards.

Etisalat was fined 360m naira for poor service, but hit back by calling on Nigerian officials to provide greater protection of telecommunications infrastructure.

Rival operators MTN Group, the largest operator in Nigeria, Bharti Airtel and Globacom were also fined by the Nigerian Communications Commission.

Steven Evans, the chief executive of Etisalat Nigeria, said the company had invested $2bn in expanding its network over the past three years and planned further spending this year.

"This year alone we are investing more than half a billion dollars in expansion of our network," he said. "[This] will reflect positively on the quality of our network".

Etisalat called for improved protection of telecoms networks in Nigeria.

"What we would like to see is the declaration of the telecommunications industry as critical national infrastructure, which would afford the industry and its facilities greater protection," it said.

Etisalat's global ambitions have been beset by problems. Last year it aborted a $12bn bid for a controlling stake in the regional operator Zain Group.

And Etisalat was among several operators to have its mobile licences revoked this year in a joint venture in India, in what was one of the country's largest corporate scandals.

The operator is exiting the Indian market, having sustained a Dh3.04bn impairment charge over its operation there.

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