By Kingsley Omonobi – Head, Investigation and Crime Desk-Abuja.
There are indications that the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Abba Kyari is under investigation by the Special Investigation Panel of the Nigerian Police Force over bribery allegations.
The probe according to Vanguard’s investigation is in connection with alleged N500million bribery money said to have been paid to the Chief of Staff by officials of South African owned MTN Telecommunications Company with the intent that the COS influence government to discontinue its heavy stance on the $5billion fine imposed on the company.
Recall that the NCC, Nigeria’s telecoms regulator, slammed a $5 billion fine on MTN for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered phone lines bought before January 2012.
In 2011, the NCC mandated all telecoms operators in Nigeria to register all existing phone subscribers before a January 2012 deadline.
The NCC had ordered that all unregistered phone lines after the end of the registration process should be disconnected from operators’ networks.
But MTN Nigeria, the largest telecoms operator in Nigeria, failed to comply with NCC’s directive and this is believed to have facilitated activities of terrorists and kidnapping kingpins who perpetrated several of their murderous and nefarious acts that proved costly to the nation.
However, following the frustrations of the telecommunications giant’s bid to fight the huge fine imposition, firstly through the courts and later through diplomatic means, an online media (Sahara Reporters) published a report on 20th September 2016, stating that officials of MTN gave a bribe of N500million to Alhaji Abba Kyari, to intervene and use his closeness to President Buhari, to influence the federal government to give MTN a safe landing.
Worried by the allegation, the Presidency is said to have directed the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to investigate the allegation and come out with findings regarding the accusation.
However, sources close to the investigation panel told Vanguard that after days of investigation, all attempts to get the publishers of Sahara reporters to come forward and avail it with evidence of the N500million bribe; when it was given, where and how the money was collected, has proved abortive.
Firstly, the source who spoke under condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said the fact that the online medium is based in the United States has not helped matters.
“Officials of MTN, who were invited and interviewed over the allegation, have vehemently denied that any such money emanated from the telecommunication company and that since the beginning of the $5billion fine saga, nobody had been approached for bribe”.
“Another thing is that if such volume of money was paid through the banks, discreet investigation of financial dealings on the part of MTN and on the part of the COS has so far not revealed any transactions of such”.
The officials of MTN drew the attention of the Police to the fact that the issue of the $5billion fine resulted into diplomatic exchanges between South African government and their Nigerian Counterpart to the extent that during President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Nigeria, the issue came up for discussion between Zuma and President Buhari.
They (MTN Officials) then wondered how issue of bribery allegation can be alleged against a government that abhors and is fighting corruption in all sectors of the economy.
Meanwhile there are indications that the Police Investigation team may conclude the report of the allegation soon if the grace period it has given the online media organisation lapses and they fail to provide evidence to substantiate the allegation.