Recently, a shocking story came out to public knowledge about how Keystone Bank and 9Mobile were acquired in controversial circumstances by the business interests of one Alhaji Isa Funtua, a close friend of President Muhammadu Buhari, via the instrumentality of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON).
As the smoke raised by the scandalous story is still swirling in the air, with some public groups challenging the government to come out clean on what could be a serious dent on its anti-corruption stance, there is indeed no smoke without fire. For starters, it is a confirmed fact that the son-in-law of Isa Funtua, Ahmed Kuru, is the current CEO of AMCON. Before him, the previous CEO, Chike Obi, was a first-class gentleman and technocrat who was strangely removed from office before the expiration of his term and was replaced with Kuru, the son-in-law of Isa Funtua.
Now, let us get into the insider details of how Funtua bought Keystone Bank and 9Mobile in the most bizarre of dealings that circumvent the laws of the land. Keystone Bank was sold by the current CEO of AMCON to his father-in-law, Funtua, without any AMCON Board’s approval and with the active connivance of CBN and NDIC at a grossly undervalued price of 25 Billion Naira. To put things in context, let us recall that Enterprise Bank was sold for over 60 Billion Naira and Mainstreet Bank was sold for over 100 Billion Naira under the former CEO of AMCON.
Before the sale of Keystone Bank to Isa Funtua, all bad debts in the books of the Bank were taken over by AMCON. So, it was a clean Bank with all the Assets and no Liabilities that was sold to the Buyers. The Executive Management of AMCON was coerced into approving the transaction and those who were willing to submit a much higher bid were disqualified under a most opaque, suspicious process that lacks all transparency. The process was just manipulated in favour of the father-in-law of the AMCON CEO.
The most disgusting part of the entire sale of Keystone Bank is how the 25 Billion Naira sales price was paid to AMCON. The #IsaFuntua Team paid 5 Billion Naira to AMCON, and then the balance of 20 Billion Naira was later paid through the most criminal and corrupt approach ever perpetrated by AMCON in favour of the Buyer. What happened was that AMCON moved 20 Billion Naira of their own funds as a fixed deposit at GTBank to Heritage Bank. Heritage Bank then paid the 20 Billion Naira on behalf of the Funtua Group to AMCON. In other words, AMCON used their own funds as a collateral for a loan to the Funtua Group for 20 Billion Naira!
When the Funtua Group took over Keystone Bank, they went borrowing immediately at the Interbank Market for 20 Billion Naira to refund AMCON’s funds. This has left a hole in Keystone Bank’s Balance Sheet and makes the Bank one of the most undercapitalized Banks in the Country as at today.
The evidence of this highly compromised acquisition process can be obtained from the current and former staff of AMCON, from NDIC, CBN and from the current staff of Keystone Bank itself. The story has been all over the place and it is quite shocking that some political parties and public interest groups are just picking it up now.
Another suspicious acquisition scandal surrounding the Funtua Group is about the untidy way 9-Mobile, formerly known as Etisalat, was bought. It is Mr. Adrian Wood of Teleology Holdings, a very sound telecoms professional, who collaborated with the Funtua Group for the acquisition of 9-Mobile. The problem with their bid was the lack of a qualified Operator to support the bid which was one of the minimum conditions of NCC. Adrian Wood alone was not a substitute for an Operator.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) gave several conditions that must be met by the Ultimate Buyer of 9-Mobile to ensure the protection of shareholders value, prevent loss of jobs, protect the telecoms industry from slipping into a crisis and ensure transparency and professionalism in the post-acquisition entity.
The conditions listed by NCC that must be met by the Buyer are Strong Telecoms Operating Experience, Strong Financial Capabilities, Strong Technical Knowledge and Strong Administrative Skills.
The first thing that happened once Teleology was announced as the preferred winner was that the Funtua Group edged Adrian Woods out of Management and turned him to an Insignificant Shareholder. The second development was that the Funtua Group raided Keystone Bank again and forced the Bank to Pay 50 million Dollars as down payment for the acquisition of 9-Mobile. The third issue was that Teleology Nigeria replaced Teleology Holdings to remove any influence of Adrian Woods from 9-Mobile totally. The fourth step taken the Funtua Group was to borrow 260 Million Dollars from African Exim Bank. The fifth thing was to coerce NCC to approve the sale at all cost without meeting 90% of the conditions set up ab-initio by the NCC. The sixth strange action of the Funtua Group was to force the board of NCC to approve the sale through the influence and pressure from the Presidency. And the seventh Funtua infraction was to use the influence of CBN to force the Banks to the table and waive their own conditions of sale of 9-Mobile to the #Teleology Nigeria group.
So far, the problem with the sales of the above mentioned assets is that all the processes and conditions were brazenly circumvented and Keystone Bank was forced into a deeper pit by the greed and recklessness of the Funtua group.
Today, AMCON as presently constituted is just a tool in the hands of the Funtua Group to acquire peoples’ businesses without paying for it or using AMCON’s money to pay for the Funtua Group. Even indigenous airlines like Arik and Aero Contractors, like many other companies under AMCON, are being considered for nepotistic acquisition in the near future. Of course, the Funtua Group has been penciled down as the preferred bidders. The devious plot is that if the Buhari government secures a second term and starts the tenure, all other companies under AMCON will be sold by hook or crook to the favoured Funtua Group. Meanwhile, the Management and Staff of AMCON along with the Board have all been intimidated into silence. In fact, the Board is dead and ineffective. And the other Supervisory Bodies over AMCON are just rubber stamps because the fear of Katsina power brokers is the beginning of wisdom.
However, due to incessant allegation by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that President Muhammadu Buhari’s family has ownership of shares in the Etisalat Nigeria and Keystone Bank, a group of investors in Lagos State, under the leadership of Mr. Michael Akekehgon, has condemned the claim, saying sale of both institutions followed due processes with the involvements of industry’s regulators.
For instance, after about a year of back and forth struggle, process of selecting a preferred bidder for the sale of 9Mobile, formerly Etisalat, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) jointly, in their roles as regulators, opted for an innovative approach to deal with a distressed company – 9mobile operated by Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited (EMTS) which its predecessor, Mubadala Group, Etisalat International brand pulled out of the country due to massive debt.
Speaking further, the serial investor, Mr. Akekehgon told The Daily Times that the CBN in collaboration with the NCC, had in July 2017 appointed a Board of Directors chaired by Dr. Joseph Nnanna, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, to oversee the affairs of the company pending the completion of regulatory due diligence of the bid documents submitted by Teleology and sixteen others for its acquisition.
He explained that Barclays Africa superintended the bid process, adding that there was no way the sale process could have been doctored as claimed by the PDP, because the entire procedures were open and plain, hence, the emergence of Teleology Nigeria Limited, who has since completed payment of $301 million to acquire 9Mobile.
He, however, advised the aggrieved persons, group or political parties to approach appropriate agencies to verify their claims. “Whoever that is in doubt of the ownership structure of both Etisalat and Keystone Bank, have the liberty to verify his or her claim at the CAC. “In fact, the last payment of $251.1 million to complete the total sum of $301 million to perfect the full takeover of the mobile network operator was sourced from Afreximbank,” he said.
The new owner of 9mobile had said: “Teleology is pleased to announce the constitution of a new Board of Directors for Nigeria’s multi-award-winning telecommunication company, 9mobile, following the successful completion of the tenure of the former Board appointed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and in fulfillment of the consequential transfer of final ownership to the new investors, Teleology Nigeria Limited.”
“We thank all out-going members of the Board for helping to shepherd 9mobile through the critical transition phase it has passed through since July 2017 and wishes them the very best in their future assignments.
“For us, the composition of the new Board of Directors is another significant milestone, and this follows the issuance of final approval of no objection by the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to the effect that the technical and financial bids Teleology submitted for 9mobile met and satisfied all the regulatory requirements. This is indeed the dawn of a new era in the evolution of the 9mobile brand in the Nigerian market”, it added.
The new Board of Directors of the telecommunication company are Nasiru Ado Bayero, Chairman; Asega Aliga, Non-Executive Director; Adrian Wood, Non-Executive Director; Mohammed Edewor, Non-Executive Director; Winston Ndubueze Udeh, Non-Executive Director; Abdulrahman Ado, Executive Director and Stephane Beuvelet, Acting Managing Director. Similarly, the new owners of Keystone Bank who were referred as a Consortium of local investors called Sigma Golf Nigeria Limited and Riverbank Investment Resources announced transitional governance arrangement that include new Board Chairman; Acting Managing Director/CEO; Executive Director and two Non-Executive Directors.
The lender, which had since 2017 handed over officially to its new owner by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), has since named transition board team including new Board Chairman, Alhaji Umaru H. Modibbo, Hafiz Bakare, a Non-Executive Director; Titilayo Tairat Adebiyi; Mr. Dan-Habu, and Mrs. Isichei who was the then Executive Director in-charge of Operations and Technology at Keystone Bank Limited.
Meanwhile, the PDP presidential campaign organisation has again declared that Nigeria’s president and candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari, no longer has the moral standing to seek re-election until he directly responds to corruption allegations by its candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The PDP presidential candidate had demanded a probe into the ownership of Etisalat Nigeria and Keystone Bank. Abubakar, in a statement by a spokesperson, Phrank Shaibu, said the call was necessary, “in view of reports that members of Mr. Buhari’s family now own substantial share in Etisalat Nigeria, which has an estimated $2 billion (about N727 billion at 360 per dollar) of its estimated $20 billion global net worth.”
The PDP campaign council, in a statement signed by its director, media and publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that Buhari should perish the thought of going ahead with his re-election campaign without clearing what he described as a pertinent issue, because it directly bothers on his integrity, both as a person and the exalted office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The PDP Presidential Campaign challenges President Buhari to explain how his family members came about the sum of N1.032 trillion for this scandalous acquisition,” Ologbondiyan said in a statement. He said Nigerians are not interested in “mere rhetoric or attempts by the Buhari Presidency to divert public attention from the issue at hand, but demand that President Buhari, who hitherto, prides himself as Mr. Integrity, squarely addresses these grave issues in person.”
“This is not an issue for President Buhari’s aides to howl about in the media, it touches directly on his person, particularly his perception as a symbol of the Talakawas. He must, therefore, address them on this issue.”
“It is a norm that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. President Buhari and his family members have entangled themselves in corruption. Mr. President’s hands can no longer be said to be clean until he proves otherwise”, it stated.
But in a swift response to the allegations by the PDP campaign organisation, spokesperson of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, Festus Keyamo, in a statement sent to The Daily Times accused the PDP of a plot to release a series of wild, unsubstantiated allegations against the president and vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, including their friends and family members, in the next few weeks.
“With the latest revelation,” he said, “the said shares are preferably linked to relatives of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, it has become a case of the thief calling the farm owner the thief, as the Yoruba would say, in a popular proverb. “These impending wild allegations would naturally border on corrupt practices, without any evidential basis.”
Keyamo said the purpose is to attempt to dent the greatest forte of the president and vice president, which, according to him, is their integrity, ahead of the 2019 elections.
He said the latest tactics of the main opposition is premised on the following grounds: “Since their stuttering campaigns started, they have felt the pulse of Nigerians and realized Nigerians have not forgotten their misdeeds of 16 years while in office. “They have decided to run a campaign of “we-are-all-corrupt” rather than defend their sordid records of merciless looting of the public purse, which has brought us to where we are today.
“The aim is to push Nigerians to equate an Alhaji Atiku Abubakar with President Muhammadu Buhari on matters of corruption. They want to deceive Nigerians to think that the 2019 elections is a choice between two “corrupt” persons.
“By repeating the lies a million times, they aim to get Nigerians to begin to give some serious thought to the lies. This is how the “Jubrin from Sudan” story started, before even some well-exposed and educated Nigerians were nearly converted on that issue. “Their latest desperate diversionary tactics is because even the most uneducated Nigerian has now understood that all the issues upon which the main opposition is campaigning are self-indicting issues, especially on the Economy and Security.”
He said the foundation for the challenges in these sectors, are firmly rooted in what he termed as “16 years of disastrous governance which he said President Buhari has just started rebuilding. Keyamo said Nigerians should brace up for six weeks of despicable lies from the pit of hell against the president and vice president, to try to suggest to Nigerians that the president and his deputy are part of the league of looters to which the PDP belongs.
“But Nigerians should understand that the choices before them have never been this clear: It is between a fugitive from the law in America and a President who has never been accused of stealing anything in his entire life and is respected both locally and internationally”, he explained.
Commenting on this development, the Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, has proffered solution to verifying President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged acquisition of Etisalat Nigeria and Keystone Bank Plc. Buhari is said to have acquired mouth-watering shares in Keystone Bank with total assets of $1.916bn, as well as purchasing about N3 billion worth of shares in the new Pakistani Islamic Bank.
Reacting, Sani took to his Twitter page urging Etisalat and Keystone to publish names of shareholders. According to him, this is the only way to settle the allegations raised against Buhari. “Given the moral dust raised by the questions on the shares of the two firms now on the scale of integrity, Etisalat and Keystone should publish the full names of their shareholders, to exhale the billows of smoke and clear the dark clouds hanging over the landscape of our nation”, Sani wrote.
However, there are questions in need responses, because in our fact findings, we discovered that 9mobile acquired Etisalat for $50 million or (N18.1bn) at a conversion rate of N362 to a dollar, but the confusion here is how can Buhari’s family have shares worth a whopping N727 billion from company currently valued at N18.9 billion in both assets and liabilities?
Also, Keystone Bank in its latest financial report, put the value of the bank at N57.6 billion. If there is outright acquisition today, the value of the bank cannot be higher than N65 billion. So, how can Buhari’s family own share worth of N307.5 billion in a bank that is worth an extrapolated amount of about N65 billion? Motolani Oseni