By Donu Kogbara
Last week, I criticised the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, for suspending the Chairman (Mr Atedo Peterside), Group Managing Director (Mrs Sola David-Borha) and other senior personnel of Stanbic IBTC.

The FRCN had justified its action by accusing them of “accounting irregularities and improper disclosures in the bank’s 2013 and 2014 financial statements.”

I told you that I have known Mr Peterside for many years and made it clear that I admire him greatly and don’t think that he is capable of such dishonesty. 

Then, in a letter dated Monday November 2, Mr Godwin Emefiele, the Central Bank, CBN, Governor (having reviewed this matter in depth), criticised Mr Jim Obazee, the FRCN CEO, for imposing illegal sanctions on Stanbic IBTC….and listed his reasons for concluding that FRCN has not handled this matter satisfactorily. 

According to Emefiele: “…The CBN is concerned about the apparent failure of the FRC to follow due process as laid down by its own FRC Act and regulations…”

I am so glad that my instincts and comments about Mr Peterside’s character and conduct have been vindicated by an objective official investigation.

And I hope that the Vanguard reader who contacted me last weekend to express the view that “all Nigerian bankers are crooks” and accuse me of only supporting Peterside “because he is your brother” (we both come from Rivers State) will now admit that Peterside is on the right side of the law and deserves to be defended!

And, by the way, the very same Mr Obazee is also embattled on other fronts.  

As I write, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos is supposed to be looking into Obazee’s handling of another case and determining whether to invite him to appear before the court to show cause why he should not be committed for contempt.

Meanwhile, the law firm he engaged to help him nail Stanbic has resigned.

MTN wahala
These are not happy clappy times for MTN, Nigeria’s premier mobile phone company. For many years, it has been enjoying massive profits (despite providing a far from perfect service to its millions of customers)….and bestriding the country like a mighty colossus. But the honeymoon seems to be over, for now at least.

A few days ago, MTN was fined a whopping N1.04 trillion for failing to comply with a National Communications Commission, NCC, directive. Now, it is being accused of over-billing subscribers in a bid to covertly make them pay this fine.

According to The Political Economist, an online publication:

“Many students at the University of Lagos and Lagos State University told our reporters that they have noticed some crazy billing by MTN on their prepaid lines since last Sunday…the students who were visibly angry said that the secret cheating by MTN has caused them untold pain and frustration. Some said their credit was completely withdrawn for just making a call of two minutes.

The Editor of the publication claims to have had similar experiences and has confidently published his phone number and publicly challenged MTN to explain allegedly inexplicable disappearances of credit he had loaded onto his phone. He insists they were not commensurate with calls made and text messages sent.

I really don’t know what to think.

If it is indeed true that MTN users are being over-billed, would a sophisticated foreign corporation like MTN REALLY be foolish enough to further risk its reputation by indulging in such blatant trickery at a time when it is being carefully monitored by the authorities?
Or is the alleged over-billing a genuine error caused by temporary technical glitches that will soon be resolved? Are the above complainants being paranoid to assume that the problem is caused by MTN trying to slyly dodge the NCC fine? Time will tell. The jury is still out!

Cabinet issues

I was surprised when I heard that President Buhari has said that while all of his recently cleared 36 ministerial nominees will be members of his Cabinet, not all will become substantive ministers with portfolios because he wants to downsize to save money and because the Constitution does not compel him to have 36 ministries.

I totally understand Mr President’s allergy to wastefulness and desire to minimize expenditure. And I have long thought that we could do with fewer ministries.

I personally have never seen the point of the Ministry of Womens’ Affairs, for example, because I have reservations about gender apartheid and think that female interests can be protected by other ministries like health, education, etc.

However, if I were the Head of State, I would probably forget about such rational reservations for reasons relating to political expediency and moral cowardice…and grimly hang onto ministries I don’t regard as crucial in order to avoid conflict.

And my fear is that Mr President – in a nation like ours in which everything has to be divvied up with Federal Character sensitivities in mind – will definitely cause grevious offence to any state whose minister winds up without a proper job!

Meanwhile, Mr President has (five whole months after being sworn in on May 29!) STILL not told us who is going to get which ministry or who is going to get no ministry. It took him ages to deliver his list of nominees and we are still waiting with bated breath to be told what roles he wants them to play. 

I could of course be wrong. But given this foot-dragging about putting a full team in place, the fact that he has not hitherto come across as a leader who is collaborative by nature and the fact that he has wryly expressed the opinion that ministers are mere noise-makers, I cannot help suspecting that Mr President wishes that he could continue to run the show without bothering with a Cabinet!


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