President Muhammadu Buhari may have ordered one of his senior aides to answer to the allegation of taking N500 million bribe from a leading telecommunications firm in Nigeria to reduce a huge fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The aide, according to findings by Sunday Vanguard, has already made statement to an investigation team headed by a top police officer mandated by the Presidency to investigate the matter and recommend disciplinary actions.
A source conversant with the work of the Special Investigation Panel, SIP, confirmed that the affected presidential aide vehemently denied receiving the bribe when he appeared before the panel. It was learnt that all the officials of the telecommunications firm, MTN, who also made statements to the SIP, equally denied ever inducing any government official to get the huge fine of N1.04 trillion imposed on the firm by the NCC slashed to N300 billion to be paid out in many years.
A competent source said, “Officials of MTN, who were invited and interviewed over the allegation, have vehemently denied that any such money emanated from the telecommunications company and that, since the beginning of the $5billion fine saga, nobody had been approached for bribe.
“The top aide of the President, who also honoured the summon of the SIP, distanced himself from reports claiming that he ever collected the said huge sum of money from the telecoms firm. “I think the matter may just die naturally if the online medium which made the allegation does not show up and give credible evidence that the affected official ever demanded and collected the bribe”.
The source went on: “It is our strong position that if such volume of money was paid through the banks, it would have been very easy to trace. It would have been possible to see where the money emanated from, and where it ended. But the problem is that the online medium that raised the alarm has refused to honour our numerous invitations to shed light on the matter”. It was gathered that MTN, deeply troubled by the allegation, had drawn the attention of the South African government to it, forcing President Jacob Zuma to discuss the issue with Buhari during his last visit to Nigeria.
The NCC, Nigeria’s telecoms regulator, had slammed a $5 billion fine on MTN for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered phone lines bought before January 2012. The probe of the alleged bribe against the official in the Buhari cabinet, it was learnt, followed a directive by the Presidency to the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to investigate the allegation.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had explained in an interview with one of our correspondents that government deliberately slashed the MTN fine to prevent affected telecomms firm from folding up and throwing its over 500,000 Nigerians in its employ into the labour market.