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Nigerian military hero who rejected a briefcase of dollars and arrested Charles Taylor

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Brigadier General Alexander Jatau
Brigadier General Alexander Jatau

He is Jatau Alexander; a Brigadier General, now retired, of the Nigeria Army. On 29 March 2006, he was a Lieutenant Colonel and Commanding Officer of 202 Tank Battalion stationed in Borno State. Nigeria was in the eye of the storm. The country had incurred widespread odium for granting asylum to former President of Liberia, Charles Ghankay Taylor. Taylor, a former rebel leader who shot his way to power, was responsible for years of bloodletting and fratricidal wars in two countries – Liberia and Sierra Leone – characterized by mass atrocities, child soldiers, cannibalism, the chopping off of limbs of women and children and a string of other evil inventions. At the height of his terror in 1990, Charles Taylor beheaded three Nigerian journalists, hanging their heads on a post. In August 2003, fugitive Taylor ironically was granted asylum by the same Nigeria. Indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone created by the United Nations and followed by an extradition request, Taylor suddenly escaped from his luxury home in Calabar, Cross River State.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, on a visit to the US in March 2006, was being snubbed by President George Bush. Insinuations were that Nigeria was complicit in Charles Taylor’s escape. It was with elation that Obasanjo received the news of Taylor’s capture. Thirteen years after, the Army officer who made it possible speaks to SATELLITE TIMES, in an exclusive interview.

Manhunt for Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor leads rebels in a march on Monrovia in 1990

Charles Taylor leads rebels in a march on Monrovia in 1990 [Photo credit: The Independent]

Charles Taylor was captured on 29 March 2006. This took place at the Gamboru-Ngala border crossing point, in Gamboru-Ngala Local Government Area of Borno State, Nigeria. He was captured by soldiers of 202 Tank Battalion, Bama on security patrol duties between Nigeria-Cameroun borders at G/Ngala Custom House crossing/checking point. I was the Commanding Officer of 202 Tank Battalion charged with fortnightly patrols, against bandits, codenamed Operation FLUSHOUT. About a week earlier, the electronic and print media were agog with news of escape from Calabar with calls for his arrest if seen. There was a directive by the Federal Government of Nigeria, that if seen he, Taylor, should be apprehended and brought to the nearest police or any law enforcement office. The international community, particularly the US, did not find the development in Nigeria amusing. Convinced that Nigeria, which had demonstrated unwillingness to hand Taylor over to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), had orchestrated his escape, President George Bush was unwilling to receive a visiting President Olusegun Obasanjo at the White House. The call for Taylor’s arrest was, therefore, a call to save Nigeria from a national embarrassment. I put my soldiers on their toes to be on the lookout for Charles Taylor.

Taylor disguised as a rap musician

There was an early morning incident at a law enforcement officials check building, popularly referred to as Custom House at the border at Gamboru-Ngala. The office building was called Custom House because it was the Nigeria Customs Service that first began to use this place as a makeshift shelter to conduct checks and documentation of goods crossing to or from Cameroon. After a permanent structure was erected by the government, other para-military agencies were stationed there. The Nigerian Army used that building as office block and staging point for their patrol activities. There were enough offices to contain all the security agencies. This building was where people crossing the border to Fotocol Cameroun and Gamboru-Ngala Nigeria must go for documentation. Therefore, most of the law enforcement agencies had representatives or offices at the building.

About 6.30a.m., an ash coloured Range Rover approached the final roadblock to a bridge over the river that bordered Nigeria-Cameroun, just before crossing to Fotocol. The vehicle attempted to cross the border to the Republic of Cameroun. There was virtually nobody in the Custom House. However, a Nigerian Immigration Service officer was at the crossing point near the bridge that separated Nigeria and Cameroun. The Immigration officer was trying to see who was inside the Range Rover because the vehicle had dark tinted glasses. An argument ensued between the Immigration officer and occupants of the Range Rover. The commotion attracted the attention of my soldiers who were just coming in from night patrol.

Charles Taylor's escape vehicle

Charles Taylor’s escape vehicle

The Immigration officer didn’t know Charles Taylor. Two things would have happened. He would have waved them on, seeing the occupants as some of the respectable travellers that go and come between the two countries on a daily basis. Either that or Taylor’s escort team would have overpowered him. However, soldiers of 202 Tank Battalion recognised Taylor who was wearing on his neck a big rap artiste gangster chain that had a crucifix. My soldiers were thoroughly briefed before going to Gamboru-Ngala on patrol duties, besides the 202 Tank Battalion served in Banga in Liberia during ECOMOG Operation for three years. Banga was

Charles Taylor’s headquarters, as a warlord, during Liberia’s rebel war and ECOMOG Operation Liberty. Therefore, most of the 202 Tank Battalion officers and soldiers knew Taylor. That was why when the patrol team heard the commotion at the Custom House crossing point and went to check, instantly seeing him one of the soldiers shouted “Charles Taylor! Charles Taylor!”, then they seized him.

Jatau Alexander and his men of 202 Tank Batallion

Jatau Alexander and his men of 202 Tank Batallion

Immediately, after ascertaining it was really Charles Taylor the wanted fugitive, my soldiers called me and informed me. As my soldiers were arresting Charles Taylor, it was then that other security agencies came to the scene and claimed that they were the ones that captured him.

Indeed, none of them was in the office then, because it was very early in the morning. They were in their beds.

At 7 a.m I had just finished morning physical training exercise at the Colonel Kur Mohammed Barracks Bama when the patrol leader of Gamboru-Ngala called me to say our patrol team had captured Charles Taylor. I immediately informed the Commander 21 Brigade in Maiduguri. He, in turn, informed the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 3 Division headquartered at Rukuba-Jos. That was how the information was transmitted to Army Headquarters, Abuja.

The Commander 21 Brigade then asked me my plan and I told him I was headed to Gamboru-Ngala to take over the escort of Charles Taylor to Headquarters 21 Brigade. Immediately, I informed my patrol team to start coming to Maiduguri with the apprehended former president of Liberia.

Unfortunately, the soldiers’ patrol vehicle was not in good working condition that could carry someone of Charles Taylor’s importance fast and swiftly on the rugged road to Maiduguri. So I directed that the patrol leader should ask the Custom for assistance with their vehicle. The Custom agreed. When I took over the convoy I directed the fugitive to remain in the Custom vehicle with my soldiers as guards.

I left went with two Hilux Toyota vehicles with eight soldiers escorts, fully armed. The distance between Bama and Maiduguri was about 70km and from Maiduguri to Gamboru-Ngala was about 145km. I met the oncoming convoy carrying Charles Taylor between Mafa and Dikwa towns. Instantly, I took over the convoy and directed it to Maiduguri, Headquarters 21 Brigade.

The convoy to Headquarters 21 Brigade reached its destination around 10.15a.m.

I handed over Charles Taylor to the Commander 21 Brigade who directed that I should be in charge of Charles Taylor’s physical security. I organised and deployed soldiers for physical security around Headquarters 21 Brigade. All unauthourised persons and media personnel were not allowed access to Charles Taylor or the building he was placed in. The only outsider allowed to see Charles Taylor was the Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff.

Taylor was armed and carried a briefcase of dollars

Inside the Range Rover vehicle, Charles Taylor was accompanied by a driver, a bodyguard and a young woman whom Charles Taylor said was his niece. The bodyguard slipped away in the commotion of his master’s arrest. He threw away a loaded 9mm Browning Pistol. The pistol was recovered. A briefcase with money was seized and handed over to the Nigerian government. In addition to the gun were two Nokia cellphones, a wrist-watch, a neck chain with crucifix, two voodoo talisman/amulets and a small amount of cash in US dollars.

Charles Taylor offered us money but we refused to accept feeling our service was to our country first and foremost. Given that he had journeyed all the way from Calabar by road, it was not impossible that he paid money to cross the dozens of police checkpoints on his way to Gamboru-Ngala border post. Had my team accepted the dollars offered to us and allowed Charles Taylor to cross into Cameroon, I don’t know how Nigeria would have washed itself clean before the international community.

Upon receiving the news of Taylor’s arrest, an elated President Obasanjo was quick to speak to CNN about it. About 1 o’clock in the afternoon, a presidential aircraft was dispatched from Abuja to Maiduguri. I was directed by the 21 Brigade Commander to lead the escort of Charles Taylor to Liberia and hand him over to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) representative and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Liberia and Sierra Leone. The presidential aircraft departed from the Nigerian Airforce Wing Maiduguri Airport and the team left for Liberia. We landed about three hours later at Roberts International Airport, Liberia. But before we did, Taylor tried to pull one last stunt.

Three tense hours aboard a presidential aircraft

About an hour after we were airborne, Taylor requested that I removed the handcuff on him so he could go to the toilet. I perfectly understood I was dealing with a dangerous man. I made it clear to him there was no way I would allow him to stand up from his seat. This was a warlord who had caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people in two countries. He was ready to do anything to crash the presidential aircraft and stop it from taking him to Liberia even if it means him dying in the process. I told him that if he wanted to urinate, I could provide him an empty plastic bottle so he could do that sitting down. I did not take my eyes off him till we landed in Liberia.

On arrival in Liberia with Charles Taylor, we were met by the representative of ICJ, who was a white woman. Others were the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General; Forces Commander of UN troops for peacekeeping in Liberia and Sierra Leone (a Nigerian senior army officer – General Obiakor); Liberia’s Army Chief of Staff ( a Nigerian senior army officer – General LN Yusuf). General Yusuf later became Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff. Also, there were two Liberia’s ministers and the Commanding Officer of the battalion proving security at Roberts International Airport. I handed over Charles Taylor to the ICJ representative. She consequently stated him his rights as an arrested felon and handcuffed him.  On handing Charles Taylor over to the ICJ Representative, he was also given back his personal effects confiscated from him before boarding the aircraft to Liberia in Maiduguri. He was then flown to Freetown, Sierra Leone in a UN helicopter with another helicopter used as escort.

Honesty unrewarded

I returned to Nigeria with my team. The escort team composed of me, a Lieutenant Colonel and five other-ranked soldiers. We arrived Abuja around 7 p.m and were taken to the Command Guest House to spend the night. In the morning of the next day, a Hiace Toyota bus conveyed us to Maiduguri. At the residence of the 21 Brigade Commander, the escort team of Charles Taylor to Liberia was disbanded and I returned to Bama my unit.

Jatau Alexander in active service

Jatau Alexander in active service

The patrol team at Gamboru-Ngala was composed of men of integrity. Their discipline and honesty averted a bad record for Nigeria. They were a team of seven soldiers. They represented Nigeria and the 202 Tank Battalion very well by rejecting dollars offered by Charles Taylor. The names of the soldiers were Sergeant Saleh Shuga, Corporal Yohanna Yelmi, Trooper Sadiq Omuya, Trooper Ado Abdulsalam, Trooper Aliyu Manu, Trooper Utibe Ukpa and Trooper Garba Danbaba.

After the incident, the soldiers asked me whether their honesty would be recognised. We waited for commendation but nothing came from a higher authority. One day they asked me whether they made a mistake by capturing Charles Taylor. I told them we did the right thing by putting our country first and foremost above any other thing. They did what I, their Commanding Officer, had always instructed them to do – to be honest and discipline at all times. That was the character of my leadership.

A few days after the incident, I was summoned to the Headquarters 21 Brigade and asked to write a report and answer some questions. Members of the Department of State Security (DSS) were the interrogators. After about two hours we completed the exercise. They said it tallied with the report they got from other security agents in Gamboru-Ngala, when they went for investigation of the incident of the apprehension of Charles Taylor. Many Nigerians did great service to their country and were commended. My team was not fortunate to be commended.  On my personal initiative and capacity, I recommended the seven soldiers for promotion to their next rank.

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Secret recruitment: 1,046 federal civil servants employed through the back door

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Head of Service building
Head of Service building

A total of 1,046 workers are now discovered to have made their way into the payroll of the Federal Civil Service, no thanks to the clandestine arrangements of top-level syndicates operating within and outside the Federal Civil Service Commission.

Documents exclusively obtained by SATELLITE TIMES showed that the 1,046 civil servants, employed and placed on positions between Grade Levels 8 to 12 had received salaries, some for four years before they were found out. All of them had had their names captured under the Integrated and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

In stunning numbers, they were secretly and illegally employed and deployed to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Communications Technology, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Youths and Sports and Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, among other MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies).

Following serious allegations of irregular recruitment exercises levelled against the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) by the Federal Character Commission (FCC) which also alleged breach of the federal character principles in employment exercises carried out between 2013 and 2015, the FCSC appointed an Ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations.

The 10-man committee headed byHon, Commissioner Alhaji Yahaya Yusuf, the then FCSC commissioner in charge of Bauchi, Borno and Yobe States commenced deliberations on 12th August 2016. The committee which members included H.O Ikiriko, Dr. Hamidu B. Mohammed, Prof. A.D. Sheidu, Dr. Ngozi A. Etolue, Ibrahim Mohammed, Tope Olufintuyi, Alhaji Mustapha L. Suleiman, A. A. Tsafe and Ibrahim El-Yakubu, had as its terms of reference to unearth “the sources of irregular recruitment within the Federal Civil Service Commission and sources of irregular recruitment outside the Commission”.

A copy of the report of the Committee obtained by SATELLITE TIMES showed that the Committee identified as culprits the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, some FCSC Commissioners, the Permanent Secretary of the Commission, the Director (Recruitment & Appointment) and the MDAs where “the Committee observed that there appears to be a syndicate working between the MDAs and the Commission, which made it possible for illegally recruited officers to (have) found their ways to be captured into the IPPIS”.

On the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Civil Service Commission, the report is bold in saying that “Appointment letters were typed/prepared and taken to the Perm. Secretary’s office for ‘sealing’ without due process for recruitment of officers. The Permanent Secretary also generated recruitment in his office, without recourse to either the Chairman or Hon. Commissioners in collaboration with the Director (Recruitment and Appointment)”.

Findings showed that a total of 1,046 civil servants were delisted from the Integrated and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). Of these, 329 workers from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation were delisted; 180 from the Ministry of Environment; 23 from the Ministry of Petroleum; 64 from the Ministry of Communications & Technology; 261 from the Ministry of Education; 66 from the Ministry of Works; 51 from the Ministry of Youths and Sports; and 116 from the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

Though the committee was hailed for doing a good job, SATELLITE TIMES can authoritatively reveal that clandestine efforts are going on to upturn its efforts. The pressure on the Federal Civil Service Commission to reinstate the 1,046 illegally recruited civil servants is coming strongest from the National Assembly. Most of the delisted workers are said to be “candidates” of very influential persons, including Senators and House of Reps members. In an ironic twist, the same committee that confirmed illegal recruitments by syndicates has since added to its “suggestions” that “75% (of the illegally recruited workers are) to be forgiven”; which translates to 952 workers to be reinstated.

Now, a total of 108 civil servants, also illegally recruited, are asking for their names to be captured under the IPPIS. Evidence was found in a letter dated 27th March 2018, written by the FCSC with reference number FC. 3418/S.124/VOL.1/7. The letter addressed to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Petitions stated that the 108 persons had petitioned the federal lawmakers seeking the intervention of the National Assembly for their inclusion under the IPPIS.

Paragraph 9 of the response letter by the FCSC to the Senate reads in part, “The Commission is hereby assuring the distinguished Senators that the case of the one hundred and eight (108) officers of Federal Ministry of Health yet to be captured under the IPPIS platform and indeed cases of delistment in all MDA’s will be given accelerated attention”.

The letter was signed by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Ekaro Comfort on behalf of the acting chairman.

A staff in the Recruitment & Appointment office of the FCSC who pleaded anonymity told this newspaper: “Even as I speak to you, recruitment is ongoing.”

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INVESTIGATION: Secret memos and documents from MTN’s $14 Billion offshore transfers

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MTN building showing its logo
An MTN building used to illustrate the story [Photo Credit: allAfrica]

Exclusive documents give a rare insight into the business dealings of a telecoms giant and its four banks as a secret federal audit reports that MTN imported $834.4m less capital than was declared, and repatriated as much as $3bn more than was declared in one of many transactions that forced the Attorney General of the Federation to request the Department of Security Services (DSS) to step in.

Barely two and a half years after MTN was slammed with $5.2 billion in sanction by the Nigerian government for connecting millions of unregistered SIM cards to its network, the telecom giant is again under official scrutiny over $14 billion serially moved out of Nigeria using processes described by authorities as illegal and irregular.

Though the ripples of the inquiry may have touched a US bank, one of four named in the MTN multiple transactions, findings have been secretly guarded; until now. Neither the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) whose top official was quizzed by the Department of State Services (DSS) over what in financial circles is succinctly referred to as MTNgate nor the Nigerian Senate whose committee conducted an enquiry into the overseas transfers has so far felt duty-bound to make a pronouncement on MTN or make public the findings of its enquiry conducted using taxpayers’ money.

Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami

Secret memos and bank forensics exclusively obtained by SATELLITE TIMES show that the official investigation of MTN was initiated by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. In a letter MJ/DSD/ASSRECOV/XIII, dated 26th September 2017 and addressed to the governor of the Central Bank, Malami informed the apex bank of his engagement of a law firm Messrs. Tope Adebayo “to carry out comprehensive audit services for the recovery of funds due to the Government with respect to illegally repatriated export revenues by MTN Communications Limited and her collaborators for and on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria …”

Letter of introduction

Messrs. Tope Adebayo is also one of the law firms engaged by the Nigerian government to help recover monies looted by the late military ruler, General Sani Abacha; among them the approximately $300 million hitherto held by the Canton of Geneva in Switzerland.

The investigators’ mandate was to forensically analyse how banks issued Certificate of Capital Importation (CCIs) to MTN from 2001 to 2005 and how banks used and (or) caused these CCIs to be used for remittances of foreign exchange to MTN offshore corporate shareholders from 2006 to 2015.

In total the auditors examined more than 300 CCIs issued to MTN by a series of banks among them Standard Chartered Bank, Citibank and Stanbic IBTC and Diamond Bank. The report of the investigation obtained by SATELLITE TIMES was explicit in saying that Standard Chartered Bank, Citibank and Stanbic IBTC breached sections of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. 1995. The banks were also reported to have contravened different memoranda of the Foreign Exchange Manual as well as well as violating the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Approval-In-Principle.

CCIs of schedule Stanbic Bank transactions

The explosive audit report showed for instance that out of a total 110 CCIs issued to MTN by Standard Chartered Bank, 79 are tainted with irregularities. On its part, Stanbic IBTC issued to MTN a total 225 CCIs valued at $999.5 million but reported only 13 CCIs to the CBN. The 13 CCIs were valued at $52.8 million. The auditors’ findings suggest the scale of the paperwork irregularities over the years was widespread.

CCI mess

To fund their investments in Nigeria, foreign companies are free, subject to money laundering restrictions, to bring in any recognised foreign currency into Nigeria. Such funds will have to be brought in through an authorised dealer, usually a bank authorised by the CBN. The bank through which the funds were imported will need to issue a certificate of capital importation “CCI”to the investor to evidence the inflow of such funds into Nigeria. Where capital is not imported in form of funds but is imported in form of equipment, machinery or raw materials, a CCI will also be required. In the absence of a CCI, foreign exchange cannot be purchased from the official exchange market for an easy repatriation of the proceeds of the foreign company’s investment from Nigeria.

For reasons unclear MTN never obtained a capital importation licence when they first started doing business in Nigeria. Banks are required to issue CCIs within 24 hours of a legitimate capital inflow, and to inform the Central Bank within a further 48 hours of its issue.

Banks are also required to declare the corresponding repatriations to the Central Bank on a monthly basis.

The forensic auditors found that 87% of all CCIs the commercial banks issued to MTN between 2001 and 2015 were irregular. Investigations revealed that MTN declared capital inflows of $2.18 billion and dividend outflows of $13.19 billion but the audit suggests that MTN actually imported $834.4m less than was declared, and repatriated as much as $3bn more than was declared.

One of MTN bankers, Standard Chartered could not produce “verifiable evidence” to the auditors of $93.1 million in capital and equipment it claimed MTN had imported into Nigeria.

The MTN case was viewed as a national security matter because of the implications for Nigeria’s economic stability forcing the DSS to step in. The DSS carried out a joint investigation with the country’s banking supervisor, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) in 2016.

The joint report sighted by SATELLITE TIMES and titled “Investigation report on the alleged depletion of Nigeria external reserves by MTN, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank in collaboration with CBN officials” uses even stronger language than the subsequent forensic audit.

The DSS/NDIC report accuses MTN of “fraudulent” remittance of foreign exchange and the Central Bank of “reckless” approvals. This newspaper was unable to get information on its final conclusions and recommendations.

MTN has previously said the allegations it illegally repatriated about $13 billion from Nigeria were “completely unfounded and without any merit”.

MTN Nigeria CEO Ferdi Moolman reportedly told a Senate enquiry that it was practically impossible to comply with Nigeria’s foreign exchange declaration regime, whose regulations in any case MTN believed were “administrative”.

What exactly does the law say?

According to the forensic analysis we obtained, the commercial banks breached sections of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and the Central Bank’s Foreign Exchange Manual.

The key is S15 of the Foreign Exchange Act, which states that any person or entity can invest in Nigeria “with foreign currency or capital imported into [the country] through an Authorised Dealer” [i.e. a licenced bank, authorised to deal in foreign exchange]; the investment is converted into naira in the market.

It goes on: “The Authorised Dealer through which the foreign currency or capital for the investment … shall, within 24 hours of the importation, issue a Certificate of Capital Importation to the investor and shall, within 48 hours thereafter, make returns to the Central Bank giving such information as the Central Bank may, from time to time, require.” [S15.2]

Provided this requirement is met, the foreign investor is “guaranteed unconditional transferability of funds, through an Authorised Dealer in freely convertible currency” when they subsequently need to: pay dividends or profits from the investment; service foreign loans obtained for the investment; and/or pay proceeds from the sale or liquidation of the investment. [S15.4]

As with capital importation, the bank has 14 days to notify the Central Bank about capital repatriation. [S15.5.a-c.].

A whistleblower who drew the Attorney General’s attention to the CCI transactions alleged that some of the MTN paperwork was filed more than five years late.

The Act explicitly states that its purpose is to “determine and monitor the flow of foreign currencies into Nigeria” and sets a threshold of $10,000 above which banks must declare any cash transfer “to or from a foreign country” to the Central Bank [S25].

It is a criminal offence for banks to “fail, neglect, or refuse to submit these returns” [S16.3]; and to “forge or produce as genuine to the Central Bank … any false document with a view to utilising the document in any transaction” [S29.1.d]

AGF-CBN faceoff

There are no suggestions so far of the office of the Attorney General and the CBN being on the same page in the MTN saga. SATELLITE TIMES gathered that after the AGF was notified by the whistleblower, he requested the DSS/NDIC to investigate. The report of the investigation and the documents obtained therefrom were passed to the law firm for forensic audit and recommendations of actions that will lead to recoveries of sums found to have been illegally repatriated.

It was further gathered that the audit was conducted and recommendations passed on to CBN for actions. But since October 2017 when the recommendations were transmitted, the investigators have been waiting for the CBN to sanction erring banks. Five months down the line, accusations are that the CBN may want to sweep the matter under the carpet.

This newspaper further gathered that in a letter dated 20th October 2017 and addressed to Messrs. Tope Adebayo, the CBN acknowledged receiving the report, adding it had set up a committee to verify the facts contained in the report. If the committee has concluded its sitting, its report is not known yet to anybody including the fund-recovery law firm which reportedly had written three reminders but got no response from the apex bank.

Sources close to the Ministry of Justice told SATELLITE TIMES that the AGF is determined to ensure that no organization is allowed to toy with the law of Nigeria. Email queries and SMS sent to CBN’s Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okoroafor were not responded to.

In response to questions sent to MTN by Finance Uncovered and Satellite Times, MTN Group sent a written response saying:

“Further to your request for a response from MTN with regard to the report commissioned by the Attorney General (AG) of the Federal Government of Nigeria, we are not in a position to comment on it. We have not been approached by the AG or his surrogates and are therefore unaware of any investigation with respect to the said report. We would also like to draw your attention to our SENS announcement dated 28 September 2016 where MTN Nigeria refuted allegations of any improper repatriation of funds. MTN has not at any material time participated in any improper repatriation of funds from any jurisdiction.

MTN has the greatest respect for the countries within which it operates and remains unflinchingly committed to conducting its business within the parameters of all pertinent local and international laws.”

MTN timeline in Nigeria

MTN was incorporated in Nigeria in November 2000 and obtained a prized digital GSM (Global System for Mobile Telecommunications) licence to operate in February 2001, for which it paid US$285m.

It began commercial operations in Nigeria in August that year.

In September 2006 MTN Nigeria declared its first dividend, and it began to repatriate money from Nigeria to its shareholders in Mauritius, the BVI and the Cayman Islands. Between 2006 and 2016 it repatriated more than $10bn to its shareholders.

In March 2007 MTN Nigeria obtained a 3G licence, for which it paid $150m.

In September 2016 a Nigerian lawmaker, Dino Melaye, alleged in the Senate that MTN had illegally repatriated $13,92bn from Nigeria between 2006 and 2016; and that “some influential and unpatriotic Nigerians” were involved, including the current minister of trade Okechukwu Enelamah. MTN and Enelemah denied any wrongdoing.

A Senate committee investigated the allegations, and issued a report in July 2017 that exonerated MTN but criticised the Central Bank of Nigeria and Stanbic IBTC Bank. The committee swiftly withdrew the report amid protests by lawmakers claiming it had not investigated all parties to the transactions.

This Investigation was made possible with technical support from Finance Uncovered.

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