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MTN: CBN promises ‘equitable resolution’ over sanctions imposed on telecom firm, banks

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MTN shares plunge after CBN sanction over $8.13 billion repatriation

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Wednesday said it has commenced a review of the information provided by telecoms giant, MTN, and four banks sanctioned recently over alleged illegal repatriation of funds.

The apex bank said the review of details submitted by the four banks, accused of helping the South African telecoms company to illegally repatriate $8.1 billion, is being done with a view to reaching an “equitable resolution.”

The central bank had on August 29 ordered MTN and the four banks to bring $8.1 billion back into Nigeria that it alleged the telecoms firm sent abroad in breach of foreign exchange regulations. The development affected shares in MTN which fell nearly a third in Johannesburg stock market after the announcement.

The apex bank thereafter fined and debited the four banks including Standard Chartered PLC, fined 2.4 billion naira ($7.86 million); Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, fined 1.8 billion naira; Citibank, fined 1.2 billion naira; and Diamond Bank PLC, fined 250 million naira.

The banks in separate statements denied wrongdoings. MTN also denied any wrongdoing. Shortly after the development, Nigeria’s attorney general, Abubakar Malami, imposed a $2 billion tax bill on the telecoms firm. In response to the tax demand, MTN filed a lawsuit accusing Mr Malami of exceeding his powers. The development has created ripples among experts, with concerns raised around the state of Nigeria’s business environment.

But on Wednesday, the apex bank said it is engaging and reviewing the information provided by the banks due to concerns raised after the sanctions were imposed.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) acknowledges the public interest over sanctions recently imposed on four deposit money banks (DMBs),” the statement, signed by Isaac Okorafor, CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, said.

“We wish to restate that the CBN will continue to welcome foreign investments and investors. Indeed, some of our recent innovations and reforms of the Foreign Exchange regime such as the introduction of the NAFEX window, are designed to simplify foreign exchange regulations.”

The bank noted that the delegation of the issuance of Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) to commercial and merchant banks some years ago was done to instill confidence in the investor community and encourage the flow of foreign direct and portfolio investments into the Nigerian economy.

The recent sanctions on the banks arose due to irregularities with respect to repatriations made on behalf of MTN Nigeria Limited and were not in any way designed to restrict access to investor returns, it said.

“In response to the recent regulatory actions, the Banks and MTN are engaging the CBN and have provided additional information which is currently being reviewed with a view to arriving at an equitable resolution,” it added.

MTN’s latest troubles come about two years after it agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle a dispute over SIM cards in Nigeria, the telecoms giant’s biggest and by far most problematic market.

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Linda Ikeji reveals identity of son’s father

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Linda Ikeji reveals identity of son’s father

Popular Nigerian blogger, Linda Ikeji, has finally released photos of her three-month-old son and confirmed that a socialite, Sholaye Jeremi, is his father.

She disclosed this in an early morning post on Instagram on Friday.

“Meet my son Jayce! And yes, Sholaye Jeremi is his dad. Unfortunately, he and I are a completely closed chapter,” her post read.

She welcomed her son in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. on September 17, two days to her 38th birthday.

Little Jayce bears a striking resemblance to his father Jeremi, with whom his mum had a secret on-and-off affair over a three-year period.

In the post on her website, she shared how their paths crossed, and what led to their separation.

Linda, who described herself as single mum in the article, also addressed social media comments criticising her of being a hypocrite, for encouraging people to be celibate.

Linda’s latest revelation comes in the wake of allegations by the blogger, Kemi Olunloyo, that she faked her pregnancy to lure Jeremi into marrying her.

Not much is known about Jeremi except that he is believed to be an acquaintance of Nigeria’s minister of state for petroleum resources Ibe Kachikwu and Forte Oil chairman, Femi Otedola.

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Campaign on pro-people policies, not killings

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Campaign on pro-people policies, not killings

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has asked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to desist from using killings to campaign but to run an issue and people-based campaign.

The party said this in a statement Thursday by Lanre Issa-Onilu, its National Publicity Secretary.

According to the ruling party, everyone owes the victims of killings solemn conducts in their honour and in empathy with the bereaved families; “not to play politics with unfortunate events.”

The APC said the PDP in its latest campaign was attempting to “distort facts” on the security record of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.

This kind of “blatant falsehood” has become the favourite pastime of the PDP, it said.

The party said its statement was in reaction to a declaration by the PDP’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus, in a recent television interview that under the APC administration, more Nigerians have been killed than during the Civil War that ended in 1970.

The party said if it were to join the PDP in its “mindless game” of playing politics with the state of insecurity, then the number of casualties during the civil war will be pitched with what Nigerians witnessed under PDP.

It, however, said unlike PDP, it will engage the electorate based on the projects and pro-people policies it has embarked on as a government for the benefit of the country, as it believes significant successes have been recorded in the last three and half years.

The party named the Niger Delta violence which it said was prevalent under the PDP government, as one of the issues the APC has tackled, including the environmental cleanup of Ogoniland to restore the ecosystem of the area.

The environment of the Ogoni area in Rivers State has over the years been destroyed by oil leaks leading to the destruction of surrounding waters and farmlands which led to a report after a scientific study recommending a total clean up of the environment.

Although the report was released during the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2011, the administration did little to carry out the cleanup. President Muhammadu Buhari, shortly after his assumption of office in 2015, launched the clean-up exercise.
But not much was on the ground until last month when the former Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, said his ministry had reached the final stage of procurement processes that will lead to the award of contracts to 21 firms so the exercise can finally begin.

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Nigeria files fresh $1.1bn suit against Shell, Eni

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We expect Malabu corruption trial in Italy to drag for months, Shell tells staff

Details emerged Thursday that the Nigerian government has filed a $1.1 billion lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell and Eni in a commercial court in London over the controversial Malabu oil deal.

Reuters reports Thursday that the new London case relates to payments made by the companies to get the OPL 245 oilfield licence in 2011. The deal is also subject of an ongoing corruption trial in Milan in which former and current Shell and Eni officials are on the bench.

The controversial Malabu deal involves Africa’s most promising oil block and was struck in 2011 under former President Goodluck Jonathan. The arrangement saw the Nigerian government stand as a negotiator in the controversial sale of the oil block in offshore Nigerian waters.

Two international oil and gas giants, Royal Dutch Shell and Italian Agip-Eni, paid out about $1.1 billion to Dan Etete, a former Nigerian petroleum minister who had previously been convicted of money laundering in France.

The payout immediately became a subject of a cross-border investigation spanning over six countries. Several Nigerian government officials were believed to have received several million dollars in bribes for the enabling roles they played.

Milan prosecutors allege bribes totalling around $1.1 billion were paid to win the licence to explore the field which, because of disputes, has never entered into production.

Rather than revoke the deal, the Nigerian government is currently allowing the oil firms to process one of the fields in the block, called Zabazaba. Although the oil giants and their Nigerian collaborators are also being prosecuted in Nigeria, the government, through the petroleum minister, Ibe Kachikwu, has argued that is more interested in striking a financial deal with the oil majors.

But the Nigerian government has filed a suit in London.

“It is alleged that purchase monies purportedly paid to the Federal Republic of Nigeria were in fact immediately paid through to a company controlled by Dan Etete, formerly the Nigerian minister of petroleum, and used for, amongst other things, bribes and kickbacks,” the Nigerian government said on Thursday.

“Accordingly, it is alleged that Shell and Eni engaged in bribery and unlawful conspiracy to harm the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that they dishonestly assisted corrupt Nigerian government officials.”

Shell in its response said “the 2011 settlement of long-standing legal disputes related to OPL 245 was a fully legal transaction with Eni and the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the most senior officials of the relevant ministries.”

On its part, Eni said in an emailed statement it rejected “any allegation of impropriety or irregularity in connection with this transaction.”

“Eni (…) signed a commercial agreement in 2011 for a new licence for OPL 245 with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company and the consideration for the license was paid directly to the Nigerian government,” it said.

In November 2017, the Nigerian state quietly issued a civil claim in the High Court, arguing JP Morgan had been “grossly negligent” when it was banker to a previous government.

The claim, sanctioned by Nigeria’s attorney-general and seen by a PREMIUM TIMES’ partner, Finance Uncovered, alleged JP Morgan did not act “with the reasonable care and skill to be expected of a bank in compliance with the laws of England and Wales” when it authorised enormous payments resulting from an oil deal in 2011.

The controversial Malabu deal claimed its first convicts when a Nigerian man and his accomplice in Italy were sentenced to four years each for their roles in the controversial deal. Emeka Obi, a Nigerian consultant in England, and Gianluca Di Nardo, an Italian, stood as middlemen in connecting the parties and the transfer of the funds through international bank accounts.

They were found guilty and sentenced four years each and had some assets confiscated in connection with the case. The pair had opted for a quick trial for their roles in the deal. The process in Italian law offers a possible reduction in any sentence.

A new report by the anti-corruption group, Global Witness, said in November that Shell and Eni’s deal for Nigeria’s OPL 245 oil block reduced Nigeria’s expected revenue by nearly $6 billion.

The group in its new report titled ‘Take the Future’ said the projected lost revenue could fund Nigeria’s combined annual federal health and education budgets twice over.

A number of Nigerian officials are suspected to have aided the controversial deal. Mr Etete could not be reached for comment but has previously denied wrongdoing.

Mr Jonathan, under whose watch the deal was struck, is not undergoing any trial over the case. He has also denied wrongdoing.

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