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ADENUGA’S AGONY

Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on 2007/12/07 | Views: 3591 |

ADENUGA’S AGONY


No matter how much Globacom Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr., tried to disappear quietly into his business world and away from the glare of national controversy, it appears that the forces against him are determined not to let him be, in peace.

• ‘Do they want me dead?’
• The Obasanjo connection
 
No matter how much Globacom Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr., tried to disappear quietly into his business world and away from the glare of national controversy, it appears that the forces against him are determined not to let him be, in peace.


Adenuga’s return to the country, according to inside sources, was the consummation of a deal struck with the Nigerian political leadership in New York, the United States of America during a well advertised media event at which Adenuga was present.


At the event, President Umaru Yar’Adua was moved by Adenuga’s plight and became convinced that there was something wrong for Nigeria’s topmost investor and employer of labour to live in exile, without any tangible or substantial case against him in his motherland.


It was at that forum that the deal that Adenuga return home to face his business was struck.
Characteristic of Adenuga, he decided to return without fanfare and noise. He merely slipped in without the knowledge of the media, except, of course the Saturday Sun which exclusively had report of his return last Saturday.


But if Adenuga thought that his troubles are now behind him and that he could move forward and that all his travails are now a thing of the past, he was mistaken, as he was jolted to discover that the forces against him, which had hugely been responsible for his fleeing the country since August last year, are still up in arms.


The first sign that those after him were regrouping was the press conference granted by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, (SAN), where he said that the British police had requested to interrogate Adenuga over alleged irregularities in the purchase and importation of telecom equipment for Globacom, and that his office had already given its consent, adding that Metropolitan police officers would be joined by Nigerian security operatives in grilling the businessman.


When the media reported this latest development, Adenuga was said to be upset and so perplexed that he exclaimed in Yoruba: Se won fe pa mi ni? (Do they want me dead?) What else do they want? Do they want me dead”.
Incidentally, even while new vistas of trouble for are opened for the Globacom chief, the authorities have yet to put forward any fresh case against the Ogun State-born businessman beyond that raised in the now rested PTDF saga


Beginning of trouble
Sometime mid last year, precisely on Sunday, July 9, 2006, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) stormed the Lagos home of the businessman in a commando-style operation, arrested him, and took him away to detention.


He would be released two days later and since then, his businesses knew no peace until the seeming breather provided by the exit of President Olusegun Obasanjo from office.


The Obasanjo connection
Adenuga, whose telecommunications company, Globacom, is the country’s Second National Operatio (SNO) was a relatively established billionaire businessman before Obasanjo became president. He was therefore not one of those nouveaux riches created by Obasanjo’s reforms and lopsided empowerment.


But it would seem it was this seeming independence of Obasanjo that landed Adenuga in trouble. It was like the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle for Adenuga to wrest a GSM licence from Obasanjo. And that was after the one he already had was revoked by the same Obasanjo who did not seem to be comfortable with Adenuga’s seeming independence (which he termed arrogance) and closeness to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and the then Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.


Similarly, Adenuga had distanced himself from the controversial Third Term project – another slight on the then president.


So, Obasanjo appeared to have got Adenuga where he wanted him when his name was dragged into the PTDF saga. When the EFCC moved in on him, therefore, many believed it was with full approval of the then president.
It would, however, be recalled that during one of the many visits of the businessman to Ota to plead with the then President over his plight, Obasanjo continued to play games.


A usually reliable inside source confided in Saturday Sun how Obasanjo eventually came clean.
“During one of the visits, Baba (Obasanjo) took Adenuga by the hand and took him to an inner room away from other visitors. There, he told him (Adenuga) ‘you better co-operate with these people. Go and ‘co-operate’ with them (EFCC). You know they are very dangerous. Do whatever they want you to do so that you can wriggle out of this mess’”.


Incidentally, it was gathered, what was required of Adenuga was for him to indict the duo of former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and the then Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. It was really said to be an Obasanjo agenda for which he want Adenuga to provide the EFCC the tool.


He was to agree that both Atiku and IBB were investors in Globacom and that Mohammed, IBB’s first son was representing his father’s interest in the company.


Adenuga again declined, on the ground that the two men had no investment interests in Globacom and that the he would also be calling his own integrity, and the future of Globacom, to question if he began to make such unfounded claims.
His refusal to indict the two men, who were then seen as some of the biggest obstacles to Obasanjo’s self-succession plot, had so much infuriated the powers-that-be that they left the businessman under no illusion that his problems were over.


Soon after he was released from the brief EFCC detention, Adenuga again visited Aso Rock to see Obasanjo but was essentially snubbed by the President who kept him waiting for about six hours without granting him audience.
It was after several attempts to get a fair hearing on the matter failed that Adenuga finally relocated abroad, sometime in August last year.


PTDF story
The case against Adenuga, among many other issues the EFCC insists it has with the business mogul, is that Adenuga used the funds of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) which Atiku used his influence as Vice President, to force to be deposited with the Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB) – believed to be owned by Adenuga – to pay for the licence of his Globacom.


The Adenuga persecutors continued to stick to this line of story even after it emerged that the PTDF deposited its funds in some 14 to 17 banks in the country and not in ETB alone. The peculiar interest in the ETB continued long after it also emerged that not a kobo of the money lodged by PTDF in ETB was missing and that the money had since been withdrawn by the PTDF, with all the accruing interest on principal.


To make the Globacom case even clearer, PNB Paribas, the French bank that provided the loan facility with which Globacom paid its licence would subsequently furnish the authorities with details of the transaction. But that still did not seem to impress those hunting Adenuga.


A committee of the National Assembly which investigated the PTDF matter further would also emerge to give Globacom and Adenuga a clean bill of health. But that has not seemed to change anything.


At one stage, the Saturday Sun had reported of a plot to link IBB with PNB Paribas. A presidency official charged with mobilizing investment into a rival telecommunications company in which top Presidency officials were said to have interest had approached Adenuga to, in spite of Globacom, invest in the rival company. Adenuga who saw the move as empowering his rival to the detriment of his own company had cleverly told the presidency man that he did not readily have the funds to invest. But the official had shocked all present at the meeting when he asked Adenuga to get the money from IBB; that he should ask IBB to send it to Paribas so that the rival telephony company “can access it as a loan, like Globacom did”.


It was a preposterous assumption and Adenuga insisted on having none of it. But that only worsened his case.


British Police
One highly reliable source which is close to the Adenuga case gave Saturday Sun an insight into the bringing of the Metropolitan Police into the Adenuga mess. His position:


“For as long as I can remember, Adenuga has always had a house in the UK. I think I can recall for as far back as 14 or 16 years ago. All the while he was out of the country, he stayed the longest in UK, he held board meetings there periodically. So, it is unthinkable that the British police would have anything to do with him and not do it all that while.
Why is it now that he has come back that those who do not feel safe with his presence are flying this story of questioning by the British police and the subsequent search of his UK home. It’s all fabricated. What I don’t know for sure is: who is behind all this?”


According to another insider source in Globacom, “in all the years of doing business and importing telecoms equipment, Globacom has never imported from Britain”.


“We have two major vendors. They are Alcatel, now Alcatel/Lucent of France and Huawei of China… When we import, we use clearing agents, and up to this day, we have not had any problems with any state institution. Neither the customs, the ministry of finance or any other in Nigeria has raised eyebrows over our operations”.


He said it was laughable that it is now the Home Office in Britain, with whom Globacom actually has no import dealings – directly or indirectly – that is now being used to ask questions.
“Where do the British authorities come in in all this?”, he asked.


According to him, the latest development is all part of the effort to continue to harass Adenuga and continue to sell a lie, in the vain hope that after some time, it would stick and people would begin to believe the lies.


Hear him: “Those investigating Adenuga have probably struck a deal with the British but are unaware of the fact that it is not in every situation that they would have to invoke the name of the Metropolitan Police, like some talisman
“If you have been probing a man for almost two years now and have not found anything substantive, why not let him be, why are you so bent on destroying him and his businesses and, in the process, wiping out tens of thousands of jobs?


Quality jobs! Life-changing jobs! Why would we, because of ego, throw several Nigerians out of job? Which individual’s ego is worth the thousands of jobs in manufacturing, Banking, Telecommunications, Oil and Gas (up stream and down stream) and all the other sectors of the economy that Adenuga has interest in.”


Even though Globacom and several other businesses of Adenuga’s have continued to thrive in his absence, the source said the growth would have been phenomenal if the man they fondly call The Guru had been around to run certain things himself. “In fact, his return last week has already breathed a new life into the organization. So many people have sat up and there is fresh excitement. It can only lead to better results – for workers, the company and the country’s economy”, he said.


It is on this score that he also suspects that some business rivals of the mogul may have also had a hand in his travails, as part of their known strategy of crippling competition to enable them hoist a monopoly.


The Yar’Adua connection
According to Saturday Sun investigations, long before Adenuga’s return, several key persons in the then outgoing government of Gen. Obasanjo who were equally convinced that Adenuga was being witch hunted for his alleged closeness to two of Obasanjo’s mortal enemies – IBB and Atiku – and his refusal to fund the Third Term project, had made spirited efforts to enable him return.


“The plan to return started before Obasanjo left”, one presidency source told Saturday Sun in response to our claim that Yar’Adua’s government brought back Adenuga. “Top aides who knew the truth began to make contacts and mount pressure – both on the presidency and on Adenuga himself. The thinking then, as at now, was that the like of Adenuga who were investing in Nigeria and creating ample employment opportunities for the citizens should be encouraged to stay and invest more, rather than been discouraged to run away from the country”, he explained.


According to him it was this small group in the Obasanjo government that insisted that Adenuga could still be brought to book if he had breached the law in any form instead of running him, and the business that goes with him, out of the country.


But Adenuga was said to have remained suspicious of the moves, a suspicion further fuelled by the desperation and determination with which government agents were trying to rope him into a crime he knew they knew never took place.


However, Adenuga’s decision to return may have been finally influenced by the said meeting with President Yar’Adua in New York. There, the new president was said to have promised him that although he had no intention of shielding him from justice if he had indeed fallen foul of the law, he (Yar’Adua) would ensure that he would get the fair hearing allowed by due process and, if need be, get prosecuted and not persecuted.


That assurance, Saturday Sun gathered, gave Adenuga the confidence that sanity had returned to the country and that he could come back.


But it would seem that those after his business and freedom have yet latched on another plot which only time would tell how it plays out.


 

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