Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is not about to back down on his claims that President Muhammadu Buhari owns Keystone Bank and 9Mobile--a telecoms company.
Atiku is now calling out the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over what he describes as “failing to investigate how Alhaji Isa Funtua, a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, acquired Keystone Bank and 9Mobile (formerly Etisalat).”
In a statement made available to Pulse by his Special Assistant on Public Communications, Phrank Shaibu, Atiku said “the EFCC has failed to investigate the acquisition of the bank and telecommunications company because of Alhaji Funtua's closeness to President Buhari.”
According to the presidential candidate, "it is not surprising that the EFCC has suddenly become prostrate and bluntly refused to investigate the acquisition of Keystone Bank and 9Mobile which have been widely adjudged to be fraudulent, if not outrightly criminal. The EFCC, like many other agencies under the administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government has once again displayed partisanship.
"More importantly, the said Isa Funtua has been known to be a major player in the Presidency whose influence and reach has been less than salutary. A recent picture showing the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Godwin Emefiele bowing to Alhaji Funtua which recently went viral is proof enough of the stature of the President's ally. The EFCC's refusal to act therefore follows a familiar narrative".
Atiku also takes aim at the presidency for failing to come out clean on what it knows about the transaction and for simply asking for proof before it could act, alleging that such a lame disposition exposes the culpability of the president's men.
According to Atiku, "While we hold on to the piece of evidence that we have, it is no longer in doubt that underhand dealings took place in the acquisition of Keystone Bank and 9Mobile. The roles played by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), both agencies of government have been widely reported and not controverted. The days of playing the ostrich by the presidency are over. No more hiding for them".
Atiku further referred the presidency to trending online reports which, according to him, “detailed how Alhaji Funtua reportedly bought over the bank and telecom outfit with funds provided by AMCON, whose Chief Executive Officer is a son in-law to the president's friend.”
Atiku wants National Assembly to intervene
Atiku also asked the National Assembly to investigate the acquisitions of Keystone Bank and 9Mobile, seeing as the EFCC wouldn't.
“Considering that the EFCC and other related agencies would not act as a result of partisanship to the ruling APC, the only hope at this stage is the National Assembly which we urge should take up the gauntlet.
"The National Assembly as representatives of the people is the last hope. We cannot allow the looting and criminal acquisition of our collective patrimony. They plan to steal more if President Buhari wins a second term. The National Assembly and Nigerians must not allow them take away legacies we ought to bequeath to generations unborn. We must rally against nepotistic rule and entrenchment of parochial cleavages as we have witnessed under the APC", he declared.
Investors slam Atiku, PDP
A group of private investors and shareholders who acquired Keystone bank and 9Mobile has slammed the PDP for pushing the narrative that the companies were acquired by President Buhari or his fronts.
The group of investors lead by Mr. Michael Akekehgon, condemned the claim, saying sale of both institutions followed due processes with the involvements of industry regulators.
According to Akekehgon, after about a year of back and forth, the 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) after its predecessor, Mubadala Group, Etisalat International brand, pulled out of the country due to massive debt.
Akekehgon further 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, has the liberty to verify his or her claim at the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission).
“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 added.
President Buhari's media and campaign teams have also strongly denied the president's links to the companies.
Atiku and Buhari are the front-line candidates in the February 16, 2019 presidential election. Both men once belonged in the governing APC.
In December of 2017, Atiku announced his formal defection to the PDP from the APC, citing dictatorial tendencies displayed by the leadership of the APC.