Editorial

$1.2billion loan scandal vs lessons from exit of Etisalat Group

After months of disagreement with  Nigerian banks, Etisalat Group bowed to pressure and  accepted mismanagement of its branch in Nigeria chaired by Hakeem Osagie.  Following plans by consortium of 13 banks to institute court action against Etisalat, the Middle East company announced its decision to pull out of Nigeria. However, it remains a shock till date that the EFCC known to have  arrested several Nigerians on  allegation of corruption issues below N1 million is yet to take action against the directors of Etisalat Nigeria alleged by banks to have mismanaged over $1.2billion. The lukewarm attitude of the anti-graft agency did not leave any doubt for the headquarters of Etisalat to leave Nigeria in order to avert image crisis and prosecution in the Middle East. To avoid further stain on its image, Etisalat Group  has meanwhile directed Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd. (EMTS) with a controlling share in   Etisalat Nigeria that its name should not be used further  in Nigeria.  What a shame for Nigeria? Yet no government official is worried about the disgrace of Nigeria by EMTS indigenous investors despite the anti-corruption campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was reported that the consortium of 13 banks that raised the $1.2billion loan for Etisalat  want the government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC), to wade into the matter, by investigating what the company did with the loan. It was  alleged that the loans were siphoned out of the company, noting there was no proof of what the company did with the loan.

The affected banks had also rolled out a lot of viable options to Etisalat for the loan to be restructured, but was rejected by the company.

It is very clear that the Etisalat Group left Nigeria dissapointed with a negative impression about  indigenous investors and the government.Etisalat Group and its agents  may never have anything to do with Nigerians locally and abroad.

What hope is then left for young genuine Nigerians in search of partners in the Middle East or any other part of the globe. This is another setback for Nigeria as suspicion and caution about Nigerians by investors in the international business community will further worsen.

This is the reason that why Nigerian NewsDirect considers as priority investigation and prosecution of principal characters involved in the mismanagement of the $1.2 billion Etisalat loan scandal. If the government could dissolve the board of  directors of certain private institutions such as Skye Bank Plc and took over defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc on the allegations of diverting depositors fund, why should the issue of $1.2billion Etisalat loan scandal be treated with kid gloves?

It is unfortunate that the confirmation of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC Mr Ibrahim Magu has been rejected by the Senate on allegations and fear of being used to harass opposition within the All Progressive Congress (APC) and other opposition parties. This is another opportunity for Magu to prove that he is truly fighting graft and not the enemies of Buhari’s administration.

What will it cost the anti-graft agency to probe investors of EMTS? What is the political affiliation of these investors that made them untouchable? What help will the government render to correct the bad impression in the global business community that Nigerians are prudent, trustworthy and reliable investors at a time that competition for available global funds have become so keen and limited in size to access.

Buhari administration should act and bring to book those who mismanaged the $1.2 billion loan so as to serve as a lesson. This we hope will protect the image of Nigerians in need of investors as partners abroad.

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