By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Investigation into the repatriation of $13.9 billion by MTN has begun as the Nigeria Senate hired international forensic lawyers, accountants and other experts to assist in the probe.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Sen. Rufai Ibrahim, disclosed this while briefing newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday.
Ibrahim said that the experts had arrived Nigeria and were already working with other local forensic experts to uncover any hidden details from the documents that had been submitted.
“The Senate sees this as very important, it is a weighty allegation and we are going to deal with a lot of documents spanning 16 years.
“Based on that we got the approval of the leadership of the Senate and we have engaged international and local forensic experts, accountants and lawyers.
“The team has been fully assembled and they have started working; this is not going to be a normal periphery investigation because it involves a lot of documents.
“We will be starting the investigative hearing tomorrow, we will listen to each one of them and we will take it from there,” he said.
The chairman also disclosed that many private individuals and government agencies had been invited to brief it on Thursday.
He said that some of those invited had already submitted requested documents and had indicated their willingness to be at the hearing.
Among the invitees are MTN, Diamond Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank which had submitted their documents as well as Malam Ahmed Dasuki and Col. Sani Bello who did not submit any document.
Others expected to appear before committee are Minister for Industries, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah; Dr Paschal Dozie, a former Chairman of Diamond Bank, and the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria.
Others listed to appear are Gbenga Oyebode and Dr Victor Odili.
Sen. Dino Melaye, who blew the whistle on the alleged repatriation, expressed happiness that the Senate had taken the matter seriously.
“I can tell you that even preliminary investigations have revealed that the $13.9 billion is far lower to what the outcome will look like.
“We have realised from these preliminary investigations that it is actually outrageously higher than the $13.9 billion,” he said.
Melaye said that the committee showcased sincerity in its approach and he was confident in the committee and the Nigerian Senate in investigating the matter.
He assured that at the end of the investigation, the alleged money would be returned to the country’s foreign reserves.
Meanwhile, in his letter to the Committee, the Minister of Industries, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, denied any involvement with the alleged repatriation.
In the letter HMITI/GEN.CORR./VOL.1/, dated Oct. 7, Enelamah said that he was never involved with MTN as he had never been a director with the company.
Enelamah said that he had neither had any engagement with the company nor earned dividends.
“I was never owner of Celtelecom Investment Limited or a shareholder in Celtelecom as recorded on pages 402 and 403 of the Votes and Proceedings of the Senate of Tuesday, September 27.
“Between 1998 and 2015 I served as the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Alliance, a wholly owned subsidiary of African Capital Alliance (ACA), an investment company.
“Two funds managed by ACA together with some individuals and entities invested in MTN with Celtelecom as the investment vehicle; I served as a director in Celtelecom representing the ACA management fund.
“I have never claimed that I invested in MTN neither did I obtain a Certificate of Capital Importation on 7th February 2008; the investment by Celtelecom in MTN was made in 2001.
“The Form A dated 7th February 2008 that I signed in my capacity as a director of Celtelecom was to enable the processing of payments due from the sale of part of its shares in MTN.
“This is evidenced by the letter to IBTC Chartered Bank Plc dated 7 February 2008,” he said.
He urged the Senate to note that investors do not have responsibility for the remittance of proceeds from the company they invested in.
“So at no time was I ever in the position to transfer funds out of Nigeria on behalf of MTN and at no time did I transfer funds out of Nigeria on behalf of MTN,” he said.