MINISTER of Industries, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Elenemah, was yesterday indicted by the Senate over alleged illegal and fraudulent movement of fund amounting to $13.92 Billion from Nigeria. Adopting a motion sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), the Upper Legislative Chamber directed its Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institution to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter and report back in two weeks. In a motion captioned “Unscruplous Violation of the foreign exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous) Act”, Senator Melaye drew the attention of the Senate to “ the illegal repatriation of $13.92 billion out of Nigeria by Mobile Telecommunication Limited, MTN, through its bankers between 2006 and 2016.” Melaye alleged that the Minister and other individuals who MTN used in moving $13.92 billion out of Nigeria floated and incorporated offshore SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles) in Cayman Island, Mauritus and British Virgin Island as follows.” He said that when “MTN was incoporated in Nigeria as a private limited liability company on the 8th of November, 2000 and obtained its operating licence with $284,906,275.89 on 6th February, 2001, it did not request for certificate of capital importation from its bankers (Standard Chartered Bank) within the regulatory period of 24 hours of the inflow.” Melaye further drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was not notified of this inflow by Standard Chartered Bank within 48 hours of receipt and conversion of the proceeds to naira as required by regulations. Melaye said: “We are alarmed that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Okechukwu Elenemah, owner of CELTELCOM Investment Limited with address at No.608 St James, Denis Street Port Lewis Maritius purpotedly claimed to invest in MTN on 7th February, 2008, got certificate of capital importation and filled from A on the same date, (7th February, 2008) closed his investment in Nigeria after receiving dollars payment for repatriation to New York same day.”
Continuing, the law maker said that “these offshore entities were offered shareholders loan and their repayment to the extent of repatriation of proceeds of dividends back to MTN International South Africa through the entities and operators of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) brought on board as Directors of MTN communications” Melaye continued: “The Senate observes that after 5 years of operation in Nigeria, the Management of MTN Nigeria Limited suddenly realized that they needed certificate of capital importation to enable them commence repatriation of funds realized from the their businesses Observes also that MTN directed their bankers i.e Standard Chartered Bank, Citi Bank and Diamond Bank to issue certificate of capital importation for inflows that came in 5 to 7 years ago which their bankers obliged to without the relevant approval from CBN” In a comment after the end of debate on the motion, Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, declared that “ This motion is based on facts and figures and there is no doubt that this is a weighty issue, so it must be properly investigated” In another development, the Senate declared yesterday also, that the 2019 general elections may suffer serious hitches because of what it called critical illegitimacy issues bedevilling the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. With the absence of Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, in 20 of the 36 states, the Senate noted that the INEC cannot conduct any legitimate election at the moment. Adopting a motion sponsored by the Deputy Senate president , Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the Senate observed that non appointment of RECs to fill the 20 vacancies was in breach of Section 14 (2) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. The Upper Legislative Chamber called on President Muhammadu Buhari to to immediately nominate suitably qualified persons to fill the vacant positions of INEC in line with the Constitution to enhance the capacity of the electoral commission to conduct conclusive elections. It further called on INEC to immediately conclude all pending elections in the country, while mandating the Senate committee on INEC to hold a public hearing to review the performance of INEC in the last one year with a view to ascertain the factors that may have
caused the perceived decline of the electrical system. INEC was further directed to conclude the delineation of additional constituencies across the country. The decision of the Senate is expected to be forwarded to President Buhari for compliance. In his concluding remarks, Saraki urged INEC to conclude elections in the affected constituencies. “Buhari should ensure that those vacant positions should be filled,” he added. Ekweremadu while explaining what inconclusive elections portend for the nation’s democracy, said the whimsical postponement of elections are wrong signals and symptoms that cannot be dismissed with the wave of the hand. The Enugu lawmaker noted that the trend of inconclusive election has left both chambers of the National Assembly and some State Houses of Assembly without the full complement of their membership, while millions of Nigerians are left without representatives for a long period of time. Ekweremadu complained: “The developments at few electoral exercises carried out so far by our electoral umpire has left much to be desired being a research sample of the entire population. “We are worried about the fate of the 2019 general elections in the face of the present state of inconclusive elections and postponements. We are worried that the trend of inconclusive elections and whimsical postponement of elections are wrong signals and symptoms that cannot just be dismissed with wave of hands.” Co-sponsor of the motion and Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, in his remarks, said lawmakers cannot see “something going wrong and fail to do anything as a Senate. I wonder where INEC derived the power to postpone elections anyhow. It is better to take wrong decisions than not to do at all.” Deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Na’Allah said: “The combined effect of section 42 and 70 made it compulsory for the President to recognize the diverse nature of Nigeria. It will be unjust for certain sections of Nigeria not being represented in the National Assembly where critical decisions are taken.” Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe declared that elections conducted so far by INEC are illegitimate if only one third of the commission is filled.


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