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USAfrica: Time for Nigeria to turn away from analog leadership in digital age. By Donald Duke

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Time for Nigeria to turn away from analog leadership in digital age. By Donald Duke

Special to USAfrica (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com @USAfricaLIVE

One thing we all can agree on, regardless of our diverse backgrounds, privileges or circumstances, is that we could do a lot better than we currently are accomplishing. We need no soothsayer to tell us that our nonchalance, selfishness and greed are eclipsing our collective future and thereby threatening our very own survival to an extent we can hardly fathom.

Expectedly, the launch of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement, shortly after former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, has elicited diverse commentaries. There is the excitement that something is, at last, happening in the polity that reverses the bore and replacing that with hope. There was also confusion and, of course, condemnation by a critical few.

Good enough, still on another side of the divide, there are also those who proffer no ideas or solutions, but seemingly have the answers to all that should be right and wrong in our country.

I am, therefore, not writing this piece to convince anyone about the merits or otherwise of the coalition, it’s aims, objectives or its founders. No, my primary concern is about the urgency of Now!

There are pessimists in our midst who endlessly criticize, yet do nothing, perhaps condemning us collectively to the point of irredeemability; yet there are others who hold the optimism and hope that somewhere, somehow, someone would rise up to lift the despair and desperate situation that Nigeria is deeply in today. That hope and optimism are what is propelling a tiny few who are ready to pick up the gauntlet and literally take the bull by the horns knowing that there must be a resolution, either in favour of him or the bull.

First, a caveat. I am not here to either burnish or attest to anyone’s character least of all that of Obasanjo. He is too well known and such a unique being that whatever one may say is perhaps a shade, indeed a slight shade of the man. There are those and there are many, including my humble self, that believe he ought to take a back seat in the polity and be the statesman that he rightly is; at least until things get awry, then we would appeal to his wisdom to marshal our collective complaints and speak on our behalf. Like many others, I also have personal axe too to grind. So for now, all this talk of Obasanjo’s involvement is diversionary. The kernel of our discourse is our collective existence.

The discourse today centres around women and youth participation in our politics. After all, their demographics easily account for 70% of the population. Have we, the so-called ruling class earnestly considered handing over the baton of leadership in the near future? Let us consider the recent Nigeria PDP primaries, the same old guards dominated the scene. The average age of the aspirants was not less than 60 years going on to 70. Have we considered that a child born at the return to civil democratic rule in 1999 is a voter today and the one that was ten years old then is likely a parent and now saddled with concerns of the future of his or her offspring? The answer is an emphatic No, we haven’t.

At its last convention, the PDP lost an incredible opportunity to redefine itself. The party could have headhunted a breed of younger, urbane and forward-looking and aspiring leaders of both genders at a parity and accordingly rebranded itself as the new PDP. If it did that, it would have borrowed a leaf from the United Kingdom’s Labour Party of the 90s that was out of power for about 15years. What it did was that it rebranded itself as the new Labour, with a centrist manifesto and showcased new breed politicians by positioning the then dashing duo of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The optics was great. But for the PDP, no way. The dinosaurs, which are unable to breed, and also refusing to quit, extinguish the entire land. The APC [Nigeria’s ruling] fares no better. Hardly has it showed nor displayed any room nor scope of throwing up a fresh breathe of fresh air by injecting new blood to replace the gerontocrats.

Before we get carried away with women and the youths, let me proudly proclaim that I too was once branded a youth and seen as a member of the vanguard of a new generation. At 30, I was already a state commissioner, at 34, a member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee and concurrently a member of the National Economic Council and at 37, state governor [of Nigeria’s Cross River]. At 45, I was done and pensionable.

The point is, there is nothing unique here, except that I was fortunate to be mentored; whereas, the bulk of our current young people are not consciously being politically mentored, thereby creating a huge lacuna in the leadership structure going forward. Without digressing too far, let me remind us that unmentored youth could be a lethal weapon. The bulk of the folks who orchestrated the 1966 pogrom were in their mid to late twenties. At that age, you are full of unbridled zeal and idealism, yet bereft of any institutional breeding or knowledge of history. The result was a fatal civil war. Catastrophically, we still deny ourselves the knowledge of history, so we seemingly are on the verge of repeating it.

Over the past couple of months, I have met with and spoken to dozens of young people about the importance of their participation in politics. The level of apathy and disenchantment is frightening. For every hundred urban youth, not more than 20% possess a voter’s card coupled with their alarming indifference that it doesn’t matter. Whereas European societies with older population are witnessing a surge in youth participation who go on to elect younger persons to office. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case and indeed all of Africa harbouring a younger population. Until the recent forceful retirement of Mugabe, the average leadership age on the continent was about 75; it may have dropped to 65 with his departure and the coming on stage of Gambia’s Adama Barrow and Liberia’s George Weah. But then, are we not depriving ourselves of virility?
Muhammadu Buhari himself has admitted that age is a constraint to his performance in office; I needn’t say more.

But my message to young Nigerians is this: political power is never handed over as an inheritance. You plot and seek it as an entitlement. Our forebears in the First Republic did it to secure our freedom from the British. It’s not a moral obligation to handover and or step aside, you have to go for it or aggressively seek it. Between 1996 and 1999 when we assumed authority in Cross River State, we plotted with like minds to overthrow the status quo and they fought back; but with our numbers, careful and strategic calculations, we prevailed. Above all, we sought office for the right reasons.

The society like many other things is dynamic and moves with the times. Today we can rightly distinguish one from the other simply by acknowledging which one is analog and the other digital. The ways our fathers operated certainly cannot be the way we should, that would be stagnation and retrogression.

Every four years or so, there is so much vibes made of youth participation in politics, it’s an attractive sound bite; the difference this time, however, is that there is no longer time on our hands. Young people urgently need to get a grasp of the issues and appreciate that it is their future that is at stake. Participation from the ward to the federal levels is imperative. A young 27-year-old man has impressed me in this regard. His name is Bukunyi Olateru Olagbegi. Olagbegi is certainly not accepting the status quo of his peer group, so he goes about setting up a political party called the Modern Democratic Party (MDP) to create political space for himself and his cohorts. That is consciousness and activism and should be encouraged. We need more of his type in the political sphere to an extent that they can no longer be ignored.

Back to the Coalition for Nigeria Movement; if all it achieves is to rekindle and galvanize the entire strata of the population to becoming politically active, it would, in my opinion, be a huge success. In that quest, all hands ought to be on deck, the good and not so good, for the weight is great. I would be glad to see Presidents Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan, Obasanjo, Abdulsalami Abubakar and as far back to Yakubu Gowon join the movement. Let Obasanjo alone not enjoy the limelight of assuming the position of an all-knowing individual. More than anything else, their experiences ought to be brought to bear.

It is apathy that encourages the governing class to govern with contempt, with the belief that the electorate is too docile and disenchanted to scrutinize or have oversight of their performance. And this is largely true. That it takes someone who is over 80 years old to awaken us to the foibles of governance, perhaps through the experience of his own shortcomings, for me, regardless of his personal reasons, clearly shows that there is a vacuum somewhere that he wittingly fills. Should we on account of that begrudge him the role he is playing? For me, that is a firm no. Rather, let us fill the gap that he recurringly exploits so expertly and adroitly by ensuring that the leadership no longer takes governance for granted, knowing there is an intolerant electorate out there. Then attention will be paid to job creation and not foreign exchange affordability, neither will herdsmen and farmers clash nor retaliating communities dare ransack land, maim, kill, and destroy property with reckless abandon without fear of repercussion from authorities.

Empathy and compassion will be the yardstick for governance and not crass display of insensitivity, hard-heartedness and high handedness. In the same vein, appointments to offices will reflect the diversity of the nation and IDP camps would not be the new horror chamber. Budgets will be presented and passed on time and there would be consequences for failure to perform in government.

We crave a new lease of life in a country where we will cease to live in fear of our personal safety and rather look out for the wellbeing of each other. There is no doubt that ours is a broken society and this is no time to sit back and criticize, no matter how self-satisfying and alluring it may be. Let us save that energy for things that are more vital and urgent.
Obasanjo is transient; Nigeria is certainly here for the long haul.
There is clearly an urgency of Now!                                                                                          •Duke, born 30 September 1961 in Calabar, is a lawyer who was elected and served as the Governor of Cross River State, Nigeria from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. He has been featured here at USAfricaonline.com, USAfrica magazine and CLASSmagazine for championing eco-tourism.

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USAfrica: Atiku’s America trip boosts U.S assessment as realistic alternative to Buhari

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By CHIDO NWANGWU, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica [Houston] • USAfricaonline.com • ChidoNwangwu.com

The first time I met Atiku Abubakar was the first Thursday of May, 1999 when he attended the world’s largest oil and. gas conference, OTC, as Nigeria’s Vice President-elect, and I co-managed with Chris Mammah his participation on behalf of NAPIMS/NNPC.

Since 2001, somehow, millions of Nigerians believe(d) and spread the allegation that Atiku Abubakar had a “guilty charge awaiting him to be arrested” for criminal culpability, should he “set his feet” on the continental shelf of the United States….

Since 2015, for the opponents of Atiku, particularly outspoken members of retired general Muhammadu Buhari’s  ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), those are “Incriminating evidences” as well as the most visible disqualifiers, open for everyone to see as proof of his “corruption records.…”

But on Wednesday evening of January 16, 2019, in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, the country’s former Vice President (1999 to 2007 during the presidency of retired general Olusegun Obasanjo) packed his bag with his visa. He was ready for the awaited trip to the United States of America, accompanied by some of his advisers. The jet was airborne around 1:30 Thursday morning. He arrived later in the day at the Washington Dulles international airport.

What are the key points and implications from his trip?

First, Atiku, one of the most formidable businessmen in the critical sector of logistics, effectively used the opportunity and platforms to announce to the world that he is the Nigerian free market forces candidate and the champion of privatization! And, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs! Exactly what the American leadership needed to hear. 

Second, with a mix of other factors and aggregation of interests, I think the man left the U.S, operationally enhancing his international bona fides, mid-January 2019, as a realistic alternative to Buhari.

Third, there was no mention of his controversial business tango with some Americans including Louisiana congressman Jefferson (who is in jail.). Plus, no reference to the complications from his multi-nodal transfer of substantial sums of funds into the U.S.

 Fourth, the man’s upfront and non-pretentious interest in State power specifically to become president of Nigeria is likely to draw the admiration of some American political activists and Nigerian-Americans. On the other hand, there are many who still charge him of an extraordinary ambition for apex political power  which led him to move from the PDP to the APC and then back to the PDP. It fueled the flames of antagonism and corrosive questions against him.

On this issue, with deserving regards to history and facts, the cheerleader of the choir which sang all manner of stuff against “Atiku’s character” was his former boss,  Obasanjo.

To borrow the Warri context of the word, it was Atiku who “come provoke” the unforgiving soldier who could have been a great head of state, Obasanjo!

Unfortunately, Obasanjo’s quest for an unprecedented 3rd term distracted him from the higher purposes of good governance; especially his positioning himself as the Nigerian Mandela. I addressed this comparison in my summer 2019 book titled MLK, Mandela and Achebe: Power, Leadership and Identity [ISBN 978-0-9893970-0-1]

Fifth, by wrapping up the two-day trip to the United States without any problems, I believe that Atiku has gained an excellent opportunity to refresh his narrative regarding the twin issues of integrity and corruption.

Sixth, by coming to exchange ideas with some of the most influential business executives and public policy leaders here in the United States, the moderate Muslim,  who was born on November 25, 1946, has also enhanced his stature among leaders from the emerging markets.

Seventh, Atiku has began the unavoidable task of clearing the wet blanket of doubt covering the important, strategic and thoughtful manifesto he presented with Peter Obi  over his third attempt to be elected President. •00——————————————•

Dr. Chido Nwangwu, analyst on CNN & SKY news,  moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown University in Rhode Island and former adviser on Africa business to the Mayor of Houston, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1993, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.comChido is completing the 2019 book titled MLK, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Power, Leadership and Identity.  E-mail: Chido@USAfricaonline.com

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Military coup in Gabon collapses overnight….

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Military coup in Gabon collapses overnight....

Special to USAfrica [Houston\]

Gabon’s presidency said in a statement that soldiers burst into a state radio station at dawn on Monday and called for an uprising against President Ali Bongo, who was recovering in Morocco from a stroke.

Security forces stormed the building, arrested the coup leader and killed two of his soldiers, according to the presidency.

“The secretary-General has always stood against unconstitutional changes of power, especially by force, and in that light, he condemns the attempted coup that took place this morning in Gabon,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Guterres added that calm appears to have returned in Libreville and calls “on all actors to follow constitutional means”, added Dujarric.

The UN envoy for Central Africa, Francois Lounceny Fall, who is based in Libreville was closely monitoring the situation and is ready to offer assistance if needed, said the spokesman.

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USAfrica: Why Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom Gov. Udom Emmanuel deserves reelection in 2019

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By Ini Ubong

Special to USAfrica [Houston] & USAfricaonline.com

There’s every likelihood that Udom Emmanuel, the incumbent Governor of Akwa Ibom State, will continue with a second term in office. Top among the reasons this will happen is the fact that the peace which eluded the state between 2007-2015 has [restored]. It has become the norm, and so, the people that were affected most, the Church in Uyo are now conducting their business unhindered. This is why the church as a body, have cried that, “afflictions shall not arise a second time “.

I was in the state for 11 days and spoke and listened to faith leaders. They want the peace experienced to continue. Udom Emmanuel The Governor is unpopular amongst the civil servants? Yes. There’s a visible anger once you mention his name. He’s not owing them their salaries, but emoluments like several years of leave allowances, pensions etc. In my quest to understand what’s on the mind of the Governor, one of his senior aides agreed that the Governor had a meeting last week with Level 14 and above officers and explained to them the poor financial situation, offering them notarized promotions.

At several instances, I have pleaded poor income for the state, and I was unkindly told that the “Udom boys are living large, buying properties and the good life.”

Udom Emmanuel –as Governor of AKS– isn’t seen as a friendly and humble person and those around him complain he’s not flexible with counsel. Human flaws? Yes, but, there’s been a lot of development in the state, and decorum in managing the finances.

This sitting Governor will return because, the defection of PDP’s Godswill Akpabio to APC has unsettled the opposition’s plans; and successes achieved before his arrival has dissipated. An aspirant of APC swore that they’ll all vote Udom Emmanuel, to “teach APC a lesson.“

Everywhere APC had structures, the uncommon transformer’s entry undid all, leaving the party with bitter tastes in their mouths. Streetwise consensus is that, if Nsima Ekere, the APC gubernatorial candidate was staking his reputation, there would have been a real battle,  the braggadocio of Godswill Akpabio.

Most people of AKS are done with that era. Take for example the primaries of APC in the state. Lives were lost in the process, and even though the process was inconclusive, candidates forced on the people were announced. This again is a relic of our locust years. PDP in Akwa Ibom State seems to be strategic.

When I screamed why Chris Ekpenyong, one time Deputy Governor of the state, who recently was lampooned, cursed and abused by constituents of Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district on a radio phone in programme, should be given a ticket to oppose Godswill Akpabio, a senior PDP person suggested that, the party might not be interested in winning that position. Again, the obvious confrontation from the camp of the NDDC CEO, regarding projects in AKS isn’t resonating with responsible adult in the state. The expectations are that, the Federal agency, should have partnered as the provision is, with the state government in determining strategic and important infrastructure to move the state forward, instead of the former behaving like another Governor of the state.

The people of Akwa Ibom State are desirous of the tranquillity that was in the state before the coming of Godswill Akpabio, and whoever is offering that peace, they have elected to petition their Maker for the best. So, the battle to return Udom Emmanuel is also a spiritual one; it is not for Udom Emmanuel himself, but, for the future of the Akwa Ibom people.

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#FLASHPOINT: DRC Congo on knife’s edge as presidential election result is postponed

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Special to USAfrica [Houston] and USAfricaonline.com

The Democratic Republic of Congo officials on Saturday delayed the announcement of preliminary results from a crucial presidential election, amid growing pressure from world powers and the influential Catholic church to respect voters’ wishes.

“It is not possible to publish the results on Sunday. We are making progress, but we do not have everything yet,” Corneille Nangaa said, without announcing a new date.

The country’s powerful National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which represents the country’s Catholic bishops, warned popular anger could result in the event the final result were not “true to the verdict of the ballot box.”

DR Congo’s powerful Catholic Church, which provided more than 40,000 election observers, had said Thursday it knew who had won the vote, but did not name him.

In a letter to Nangaa on Saturday, CENCO president Mgr Marcel Utembi said that, given the delay, “if there is a popular uprising it would be the responsibility of the CENI.”

The December 30 vote saw 21 candidates run to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the vast, conflict-ridden country for almost 18 years.

Among the frontrunners were Kabila’s handpicked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and two opposition candidates: veteran heavyweight Felix Tshisekedi and newcomer Martin Fayulu.

At stake is the political stewardship of a mineral-rich country that has never known a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Kabila had been due to step down two years ago, but clung on to power, sparking widespread protests which were brutally repressed, killing dozens.

The election, preceded by repeated delays, was carried out in a relatively peaceful manner. But tensions have built over the lengthy counting process, amid fears the results could be manipulated to install Kabila-backed Shadary in power.

The electoral commission had promised to announce preliminary results on Sunday, followed by a definitive count on January 15.

But Nangaa told AFP just under half of ballots had been counted by Saturday afternoon, adding: “Next week, we will announce.”

The further delay could stoke tension in the unstable central African nation of 80 million.

Nangaa has blamed the slow count on massive logistical problems in a country the size of Western Europe with poor infrastructure. Since the vote, the authorities have cut internet access and blocked broadcasts by Radio France Internationale, causing widespread frustration.

With international concerns growing over the transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation, Western powers have upped the pressure.

The United States and European Union urged Kinshasa to ensure a peaceful change of power.

Donald Trump announced Friday that the United States was sending about 80 troops to Gabon to deploy in the event of election-related unrest in nearby DR Congo.

The African Union, which had sent an 80-member team to monitor the vote, insisted that respecting voters’ wishes was “crucial”.

And Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the DR Congo’s western neighbour, the Republic of Congo, urged restraint in uncertain times to “safeguard peace and stability in this brother country”.

Nangaa wrote to CENCO head Utembi on Friday accusing the episcopal conference of putting out partial result “trends” designed to “intoxicate the population in preparing an uprising,” an accusation the latter turned on its head with Saturday’s letter in response.

In his letter Nangaa warned CENCO would “alone be responsible” for unrest after disseminating “insignificant and partial data.”

The ruling FCC coalition accused CENCO of “seriously breaching” the constitution and electoral law by “illegally declaring voting trends” in favour of a given candidate.

The last two elections in 2006 and 2011, both won by Kabila, were marred by bloodshed, and many feared a repeat if the results this time round were placed in doubt.

In 2006, Kabila defeated former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba in a violence-tainted poll.

Five years later, he was re-elected in another vote blighted by bloodshed, chaotic organisation and alleged irregularities.

The opposition rejected the results.

Between 1996 and 2003, DR Congo lived through two fully-fledged wars that claimed millions of lives through fighting, starvation, and disease. ref: AFP

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Violence, tension in DRC Congo election; Kabila orders internet access shut down

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AFP: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday began counting ballots from a presidential election marked by delays and fears of violence and vote-rigging, straining hopes for its first-ever peaceful transfer of power.

After a relatively bloodless vote, election officials embarked on the marathon task of counting and collating, their work scrutinised by opposition parties for any sign of fraud.

Sunday’s elections went ahead after two years of delays and sporadic clashes in the notoriously unstable country.

But the influential Catholic church, through its national conference of bishops, declared the vote had been “relatively calm”.

Reported incidents included harassment of some election monitors and a clash in the restive eastern province of South Kivu that left four dead.

Two telecoms operators, Global and Vodacom, said the government had ordered them to cut access to the Internet on Monday — a move that opposition supporters said aimed at blocking social-media activism.

The DRC has never had a peaceful transition of leader since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Worries of a new spiral into violence deepened in 2016 after President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, refused to quit when his two-term limit expired.

Tension and suspicion were further stoked by repeated delays, a bloody crackdown on anti-Kabila protests and accusations that electronic voting machines would help to rig the result.

But Kabila late Sunday congratulated the public for voting “in peace and dignity”.

Provisional results are due to be announced on January 6, with final results expected on January 15. The new president is set to be sworn in on January 18.

From Kinshasa to Goma, 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) further east, polling stations already put up first results on Monday morning.

In Kisangani, the country’s third-largest city, observers hired by the political parties slept on the floor or on desks at a polling station to keep their eye on the vote count, an AFP reporter said.

A monitoring mission set up by the Catholic church said some of its observers had been “molested and violated.”

On Sunday evening, violence erupted at a polling station in the Walungu area of South Kivu province after an electoral official was accused of trying to rig the vote in favour of Kabila’s preferred successor, according to an opposition figure.

The electoral official was killed along with a policeman and two civilians, said Vital Kamerhe, who has been campaigning for Felix Tshisekedi.

Kabila’s champion Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and Tshisekedi, head of a veteran opposition party, UDPS, separately claimed victory.

But the scant opinion polls that have been conducted made Martin Fayulu — until recently a little-known legislator and former oil executive — clear favourite.

He garnered around 44 percent of voting intentions, followed by Tshisekedi with 24 percent and Shadary with 18 percent, said Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group, based at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.

Roughly half of survey respondents, he added, said they would reject the result if Shadary — a hardline former interior minister facing EU sanctions for a crackdown on protesters — was declared winner.

The vote for a new president took place alongside legislative and municipal polls.

While turnout failed to reach 50 percent at some polling stations, many voters said they were exhilarated at taking part in the first elections after the nearly 18-year Kabila era.

But there was also much evidence of organisational problems, including with the contested voting machines.

The Catholic monitoring mission said that, as of early Monday, its observers had checked overall tallies of the vote in 4,161 polling stations.

In 3,626 stations, the number of paper ballot sheets tallied with totals kept by electronic voting machines, the observer mission said — a figure that by extrapolation suggests possible discrepancies in 535 bureaux.

DRC’s paradox

A country almost the size of continental western Europe which straddles central Africa, the DRC is rich in gold, uranium, copper, cobalt and other minerals.

Little of that wealth trickles down to the poor. Poverty, corruption and government inertia are etched into the country’s history, along with a reputation for violence.

In the last 22 years, it has twice been a battleground for wars drawing in armies from central and southern Africa.

That legacy endures in eastern DRC, where militias control swathes of territory and battle over resources, wantonly killing civilians.

Insecurity and an ongoing Ebola epidemic in part of North Kivu province, and communal violence in Yumbi, in the southwest, prompted the authorities to postpone the elections there until March.

Around 1.25 million people in a national electoral roll of around 40 million voters are affected. Despite this, elections in the rest of the country went ahead.

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USAfrica: Developing jaw-dropping settlement, MTN South Africa to pay Nigeria only US$53.2-million (R777-million) of $8.1-billion (R118-billion) CBN fines, refunds

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Special to USAfrica [Houston] @usafricalive USAfricaonline.com

Christmas [came] early for MTN Group [of South Africa]. The telecommunications operator’s shares are likely to soar when markets reopen on Thursday in Johannesburg after it announced late on Monday that it has settled a multibillion-dollar dispute in Nigeria.

It will pay just US$53.2-million (about R777-million) in a settlement with Nigeria’s central bank, a tiny fraction of the $8.1-billion (R118-billion) the Bank had sought from the group’s subsidiary in the West African country.

MTN Group shares plunged 22% on 30 August when it emerged that the Nigerian central bank had ordered four banks to refund the $8.1-billion it claimed was illegally expatriated by the telecoms provider between 2007 and 2015. Its shares, which trade on the JSE, have failed to recover significant ground since then on investor fears.At these meetings, MTN Nigeria provided additional material documentation which satisfactorily clarified its remittances

A second allegation by Nigerian authorities that MTN owes $2-billion in back taxes remains the subject of dispute, however. That matter is due to be heard by a Nigerian court in February next year.

The settlement amount with the central bank — less than 0.7% of the sum originally demanded — is likely to be seen as a significant victory for group CEO Rob Shuter, who took the reins at MTN last year from Phuthuma Nhleko. Shuter joined MTN from Vodafone Group.

In a statement late on Monday, MTN said a series of meetings were held in Lagos with central bank officials in November.

“At these meetings, MTN Nigeria provided additional material documentation which satisfactorily clarified its remittances,” it said. Upon review of this documentation, the central bank “concluded that MTN Nigeria is no longer required to reverse the historical dividend payments made to MTN Nigeria shareholders”.

“However, the central bank maintains that the proceeds from the preference shares in MTN Nigeria’s private placement remittances of 2008 of circa $1-billion were irregular, having been based on CCIs (certificates of capital importation) that only had an approval-in-principle, but not final regulatory approval of the central bank.

“The central bank instructed MTN Nigeria to implement a notional reversal of the 2008 private placement of shares in MTN Nigeria at a net cost of circa 19.2-billion naira — equivalent to $52.6-million. This is on the basis that certain CCIs utilised in the private placement were not properly issued.”

MTN Nigeria and the central bank have agreed that they will resolve the matter on the basis that the operator will pay the notional reversal amount without admission of liability, the group said.

“In terms of the resolution agreement, the central bank will regularise all the CCIs issued on the investment by shareholders of MTN Nigeria of circa $402.6-million without regard to any historical disputes relating to those CCIs, thereby bringing to a final resolution all incidental disputes arising from this matter.”

MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter


It said MTN Nigeria relied on “certain commercial banks to ensure all approvals had been obtained prior to the CCIs being issued and to ensure the CCIs were properly utilised in the private placement”.

“MTN Nigeria will be engaging with the banks in relation to the issues dealt with in the resolution agreement,” the group said. Presumably, this means MTN is going to try to recover at least some of the $53.2-million from the banks involved.

The original $8.1-billion demanded by the central bank followed just three years after the Nigerian Communications Commission imposed a $5.2-billion fine on MTN for failing to disconnect unregistered Sim cards. That fine was later reduced to about $1-billion.MTN Nigeria continues to maintain that its tax matters are up to date and no additional payment … is due

MTN Group said it remains involved in legal action with Nigeria’s attorney-general over the $2-billion in back taxes the AG claims are owed. The case came up for “initial mention” before the federal high court in Lagos on 8 November 2018 and has been adjourned to 7 February 2019.

“MTN Nigeria continues to maintain that its tax matters are up to date and no additional payment … is due,” the group said, adding that no provisions or contingent liabilities have been raised in the accounts of MTN Nigeria for the claim.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest and most profitable market. It has more than 64 million customers in the country and it enjoys high profit margins. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in the third quarter represented 43% of revenue.  ref — © 2018 NewsCentral Media

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