An internal memo by the CEO of telecoms giant, MTN, appears to confirm a report by SaharaReporters to the effect that the company sacked Ms. Amina Oyagbola from her post as the company’s head of corporate services and human resources in order to avoid coming under scrutiny by the United States government over bribes to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
The memo, written by MTN CEO Ferdi Moolman and circulated to the company’s staff, offered extensive commendation to Ms. Oyagbola for the role she played to ensure that the Nigerian government massively reduced a corporate fine slapped on the company for disregarding government directives that all SIM cards should be registered. The directive was part of the government’s measures to curb terrorism in the northeastern part of Nigeria against Islamist fundamentalist terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The original $5.2 billion fine was reduced to $1.7 billion after Oyagbola was offered double portfolio at MTN.
Mr. Moolman’s memo revealed that Ms. Oyagbola was given unprecedented control over the negotiations that took place with the Nigerian government, confirming for the first time that she was also handed two powerful executive positions at the same time at MTN purposely to resolve the fine issue. Shortly after the Nigerian government imposed the $5.2b fine, MTN’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Sifiso Dabengwa, resigned taking responsibility for the fine.
The new chairman, Executive Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko then promised that MTN “will immediately and urgently re-engage with the Nigerian authorities before responding formally.”
In December 2015, the duo of Mike Ikpoki and Akinwale Goodluck both MD and Corporate services executive were forced out of MTN because they only succeeded in reducing the MTN fine to $3.4 billion. Ms. Oyagbola, who was then HR executive, was given a second major portfolio in order to get the fine drastically reduced. In addition to her HR position, she was given a more robust position of “Strategic Corporate Service” executive, a post formerly held by Wale Goodluck.
In his memo, Mr. Moolman wrote: “In 2015, Amina was appointed Corporate Services Executive in addition to her role as HR Executive, to provide guidance towards the resolution of the NCC fine, which is arguably the most significant challenge to the organization to date. She was an important interface and member of the negotiating team that helped to resolve the crisis amicably, and mitigate the negative impact on shareholder value and corporate reputation.”
Though he tried in his memo to hide the fact that Ms. Oyagbola was sacked, Mr. Moolman stated that she “approached this decision [to resign] with the same optimism, thoughtfulness and passion that she has brought to the workplace over the years.”
SaharaReporters first reported that Ms. Oyagbola had been sacked on account of her role in resolving the $5.2 billion saga. Our corporate and political sources disclosed that the fine reduction came about through bribes to Mr. Kyari and other unnamed government officials.
According to sources in the firm, Ms. Oyagbola had hired a friend, Femi Lijadu, to function as “strategic advisory services consultant” soon after the government imposed the fine. This made Mr. Lijadu a member of the team that negotiated with the Federal Government to reduce the fine to $1.7 billion. Ms. Oyagbola and Mr. Lijadu once worked under Mr. Abba Kyari at the United Bank for Africa (UBA). With the reduction of the fine to about a third of the original sum, Ms. Oyagbola’s corporate stature soared.
MTN insiders revealed that, on one occasion, the company paid N500m to Mr. Lijadu for his “services.” Last week, MTN management directed Ms. Oyagbola to step down from one of her two corporate positions. According to an MTN source, Ms. Oyagbola then opted to resign.
But another company source told SaharaReporters that she was fired after the MTN bribe scandal with Mr. Kyari came to the notice of the parent company in South Africa. According to the source, the decision to sack Ms. Oyagbola was provoked by the prospect of severe corporate image damage should US authorities raise questions about the bribe given to Mr. Kyari to use his influence to get the fine reduced.