Dr Cassiel Ato Forson — Minority Leader
Dr Cassiel Ato Forson — Minority Leader

Minority kicks against award of 5G to Next Gen Infraco

The Minority in Parliament has said the government’s decision to give the 5G spectrum to Next Gen Infraco Company Limited for the next 10 to 15 years is inimical to the national interest. 

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Under this deal, it said Next Gen Infraco Limited had been given the exclusive right to build, own and operate the entire 5G infrastructure network across the country, for all mobile network operators, internet service providers and other interested entities.

According to the Minority, the executive approval was granted by President Akufo-Addo for “This sweetheart deal on August 22, 2023, barely one week after the company’s incorporation on August 16, 2023”

“This was done through a non-transparent arrangement without any competitive process whatsoever.

Study

“After a preliminary study of the processes leading to this opaque transaction, the Minority Caucus takes the view that the Next Gen Infraco 5G deal is inimical to the national interest,” a statement signed by the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, said.

It said the government’s decision was inimical because there was a lack of value for money and that the minority’s conservative analysis showed that the State could have generated between $400 million and $500 million upfront if the government had opted for a more competitive process.

That revenue, it said could have been channelled into critical development projects under the present situation of economic bankruptcy and excruciating hardship. “Sadly, the corrupt Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government is giving away this important asset for a paltry $125 million payable in yearly instalments on a work-and-pay basis over the next 10 years,” it said.

The statement said there was unfair monopoly and exclusivity and that such an opaque ‘work and pay’ 5G agreement would ensure that Next Gen Infraco would be the only company to offer wholesale 5G mobile data and voice services in the country for 10 years.

Customers

Again, it said: “All existing Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)-MTN, AT, Telecel and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country cannot offer data and voice services to their numerous customers nationwide without passing through Next Gen Infraco”

The minority said Next Gen Infraco would control a substantial 62.5 per cent of every data/voice bundle package every mobile user buys, with only 7.5 per cent going to the government and 30 per cent for MNOs and ISPs.

“We hold the view that the monopoly and exclusive rights granted Next Gen Infraco under this opaque deal is unfair to other industry players and unacceptable,” it said. Moreover, the statement said there was also an absence of Parliamentary approval and that the 5G spectrum transaction awarded to Next Gen Infraco Limited was a multi-year contract, hence subject to parliamentary approval per Section 33 of the Public Financial Management Act 2016 (Act 921).

Unfortunately, it said the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government was almost concluding the deal at the blindside of Parliament and “This renders the entire transaction unlawful, null, void, and of no legal effect whatsoever”

Beneficiaries

It said some of the entities in the consortium, which were the beneficiaries of this opaque transaction, were mushroom entities owned by cronies of President Akufo-Addo and the Minister of Communications with questionable track records.

“Some of these entities have been engaged by this same government in similar arrangements that have offered no value for money for the state. “The regulatory framework and operational modalities and guidelines for this opaque arrangement have not been clearly defined by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government, which appears to be in an indecent haste to give away the country’s 5G spectrum for a pittance,” it emphasised. 

Investment

The statement said the investment that the consortium was expected to make to justify their humongous 63 per cent stake in Ghana’s 5G network services revenue had also not been clearly defined.

The NDC Caucus in Parliament, it said held the view that at a time when the country was in dire need of foreign exchange and non-tax revenue, it was unconscionable that the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government would hand over the precious and highly sought-after 5G spectrum of the country to a shell company for a pittance.

“This deal is inimical to our national interest. “The NDC Minority Caucus has, therefore, flagged this transaction for eagle-eye scrutiny. In the coming days, we shall be addressing the media and, by extension, the Ghanaian people on these vexed matters and collaborate with other stakeholders to ensure that our national interest is upheld,” it said.

At a Meet-the-Press series last week to announce the initiative, the Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said the shared network infrastructure for 5G represented “a strategic move to provide affordable, high-speed mobile broadband services, reduce the digital divide and promote financial inclusion.”

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