Senate begins probe of MTN, others over illegal money transfer

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

The Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions has resolved to commence the probe of MTN and Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, over alleged illegal repatriation of $13.92 billion out of the country between 2006 and 2016.

The investigative hearing has been scheduled to take off on October 20, 2016, at the National Assembly legislative complex, Abuja.

The probe followed a resolution by the Senate on September 27, 2016, where it alleged that Enelamah connived with MTN to exploit the weak Nigerian financial system to move the money out of the country without authorisation.

The Senate further alleged that MTN craftily beat Nigeria’s financial regulatory laws by failing to obtain a certificate of capital importation, which would have authorised it to move capital into Nigeria from its South African bankers, Standard Chartered Bank, as authorised by the law within 24 hours.

During the debate in the motion, the Chamber disclosed that MTN was incorporated in Nigeria in 2000 as a private liability company and eventually obtained its operating licence with the sum of $284,906,275.89 on February 6, 2001 but failed to bring capital into Nigeria as required, adding that when it eventually moved in $117.6 billion between 2001 and 2003, it did so in three tranches.

It described the action as a sheer violation of the law authorising capital importation within 24 hours. The Upper Chamber also alleged that the repatriation was done through four banks, which include: Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Diamond Bank and Citi Bank.

After considering the motion which was sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye, the Senate mandated its Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions to probe the minister, MTN, the banks and other Nigerians said to have benefitted from the deal.

Accordingly, the Committee has summoned MTN, Enelamah, Col. Sani Bello, Chairman of Diamond Bank, Dr. Pascal Dozie and Ahmed Dasuki. Also expected at the investigative hearing are Gbenga Oyebode, Babatunde Folawiyo and Victor Odili.

According to the senate, the breakdown of how the money was repatriated through  the four banks, are Stanbic IBTC – $4.87 billion; Standard Chartered Bank – $5.72 billion; Citi Bank – $2.98 billion and Diamond Bank – $0.35 billion, pointing out that the repatriation was done in violation of Memorandum 22 of the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring & Miscellaneous) Act, 1995.

Jamb Result

In another development, the Senate extended the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) results’ validity from the current one year to a period of three years, by passing the JAMB Amendment Bill, 2016.

It also laid to rest the dispute between the federal government and tertiary institutions over the conduct of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) as the new JAMB Amendment Bill makes the conduct of post-UTME illegal.

According to Section 5(b) of the new bill, the sole responsibility of conducting admission examinations into tertiary institutions now belongs to the JAMB.

It states “the matriculation examinations conducted by the Board shall be the sole examinations required for admission and entry into all universities, polytechnics (by whatever name called) and colleges of education (by whatever name called) to the exclusion of any institution or body”.

The bill also provides that the placement of suitably qualified candidates in tertiary institutions in accordance with existing vacancies, guidelines approved by authorities of such institutions and preferences expressed by candidates shall be carried out exclusively by JAMB.

It stated that the collection and dissemination of information on all matters in relation to admissions into tertiary institutions and related matters should be done solely by JAMB.

The bill further introduced a new Section 6 (1) into the original Act, which guarantees the validity of any admission offered by JAMB to any candidate for a period of three years from the date of the examination.

“A candidate meeting the requirement for admission and being duly qualified shall remain so qualified for the period prescribed in sub-section (1) of this section. 

“A candidate awaiting admission shall be given preference in the succeeding year over fresh applicants who shall only become eligible when backlog has been cleared,” the sections provide. The passage of the bill followed the adoption of the report of the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND presented by its chairman, Senator Jibrin Barau.