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...Interpol probe Atiku’s role in Jefferson deal •Documents contradict minister’s claim on transaction

Posted by Yomi Odunuga, Olusola Fabiyi and Musikilu Mojeed, Abuja on 2005/09/03 | Views: 866 |

...Interpol probe Atiku’s role in Jefferson deal •Documents contradict minister’s claim on transaction

The International Criminal Police (Interpol) are investigating the alleged involvement of Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the controversial telecoms deal initiated by United States Congressman William Jefferson.

The International Criminal Police (Interpol) are investigating the alleged involvement of Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the controversial telecoms deal initiated by United States Congressman William Jefferson.

Our correspondents gathered on Friday that Interpol was asked by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to dig deeper into the matter to ascertain if Atiku actually benefitted from the deal.

FBI agents searched the vice president’s home in Montgomery County, Maryland, USA on August 3 and according to the source, Interpol was also investigating the vice president’s financial dealings within and outside Nigeria.

It would assist FBI’s probe into information that Jefferson reportedly tried to get Atiku to influence the award of a contract sought by an American company from Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

The company, iGate, was reportedly bidding to build the pilot scheme of a high-speed broadband telecommunications technology system for NITEL in the country.

FBI investigators, who conducted a sting operation on the congressman over the past one year, are trying to ascertain whether Jefferson received bribes from the investors, which were then passed to Nigerian government officials, including Atiku and possibly Ghanaian Vice President Aliu Mahama.

Meanwhile, documentary evidence available to Saturday Punch has contradicted claims by the Minister of Communications, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, that the ministry neither had any dealing with Jefferson nor the American company.

Saturday Punch obtained a letter dated August 24, 2005 and signed by an official of the ministry, Dr. M.N Haruna, which confirmed that there was some communication between NITEL and a Nigerian company,, representing the American firm.

According to a separate letter written by Jefferson to Atiku on a letter-head of the U.S. House of Representatives dated June 21, an American company wished to partner with a Nigerian Internet Service Provider (ISP), Rosecom, to invest $50,000,000 to provide high-speed internet service to Nigeria over NITEL’s copper wire infrastructure. The proposal, which was at no cost to either NITEL or the Federal Government, he said, would ensure the payment of substantial amounts to the state-owned telecoms utility “for the use of its copper wire and for the co-location of D-Slams and switches at NITEL’s facilities of approximately USD 5,000,000 in Year 1; USD 28,000,000 in Year 2; USD69,000,000 in Year 3; USD103,000,000 in Year 4; and USD106,000,000 in Year 5 and thereafter. This would add substantially to NITEL’s operating income and to the value of NITEL in its efforts to privatise.”

The congressman told the vice president that Rosecom had presented the project to NITEL on behalf of the American company. He therefore urged Atiku to use his wisdom to support the realisation of the partnership’s objectives.

In a supporting note, also dated June 21, 2005, the congressman urged the vice president to “check into this matter with the managing director of NITEL prior to your trip to the U.S. in July 2005. I look forward to having a chance to meet with you then to discusss or to conclude this matter at that time.”

Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Prof. George Obiozor, delivered Jefferson’s letter to the vice president. The ambassador said in a June 24, 2005 letter to the vice president’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Olusola Akanmode, with reference number WA/PO/S.5/SEC/111 that he was forwarding the “self-explanatory letter on the U.S company Rosecom and NITEL” written by Jefferson through Akanmode to the vice president.

Akanmode thereafter in a July 19, 2005 letter with reference number SH/VP/67 addressed to the Minister of Communications, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, stated that he was forwarding a letter from Jefferson, adding that the subject matter was the internet agreement which should be looked into.

The ministry responded via a letter dated August 24, 2005 with reference number MC/SAB/0280/II/274, which was signed by Dr. M.N Haruna, on behalf of the minister.

In the letter addressed to Akanmode and titled “Transmission of Letter: Offer for Delivery of ADSL Services Using the NITEL Access Network,” the ministry official said, “I am diected to refer to your letter Ref. SH/VP/69 dated July 19th, 2005 on the above subject matter and to inform you that there is no subsisting agreement between NITEL and Messrs. (nor with any other ISP) to co-locate or install DSLAM within NITEL premises.

“2. Accordingly, I am to inform you that NITEL had already installed DSLAMs in five (5) exchanges in Abuja and twelve (12) exchanges in Lagos to provide wholesale ADSL services through the ISPs to their user customers. NITEL has however commenced discussions with Messrs. Rosecom to enable them serve as one of its ISPs. This is the situation as of now as you may please wish to note.”

These letters apparently contradict Adebayo’s claim in a statement on Thursday that the ministry never had any dealing with either Jefferson or any American company apart from Motorola.

In the September 1, 2005 statement issued on the ministry’s letter-head with reference number SA(M/P)/MMC/Vol.VII and signed by Adebayo’s Special Assistant (Media/Publicity), Mr. Akinloye Oyebanji, the minister said, “The Ministry of Communications has denied having any dealing with any American company apart from Motorola. Communications Minister, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, said that “The Ministry of Communications under my supervision has had no dealing with Congressman Jefferson nor any American company, apart from Motorola. I have never in the course of my supervision of NITEL done any business with Congressman Jefferson.”

The minister’s aide, when confronted with Saturday Punch’s findings, told our correspondent on telephone on Friday that his boss, who was out of the country, was still standing by his statement.

SATURDAY PUNCH, September 03, 2005

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown