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MTN refutes Sahara Reporters report, denies firing Amina Ayagbola over bribe to Buhari aide

By The Rainbow
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MTN Nigeria has refuted a report in an online media The Sahara Reporters which indicated Amina Oyagbola who is retiring from the telecoummications giant was actually fired over her purported role in an alleged bribery by the South African firm to  the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari Abba Kyari.

The firm described the publication as trumped up with the goal to damage the hard-earned reputation of both the  company and its retiring executive.

MTN stated in the statement, “Our  attention has been drawn to a report published on December 23, 2016 by an online website – about our retiring Human Resources and Corporate Service Executive, Amina Oyagbola.

‘To be clear, we state without equivocation that the story is untrue, malicious, defamatory, with the goal of damaging our hard-earned reputation, as well as that of our highly respected executive, Amina Oyagbola, who has served our company for 12 meritorious years.

“To address the issues raised in the article:

– As we have stated at various times in the past, we categorically deny the accusation that MTN (or its employees) offered a bribe to a government official over the NCC fine.

– Secondly, there is absolutely no truth to the accusation that Mrs Amina Oyagbola who is our Human Resources and Corporate Services Executive was fired. She made the voluntary decision to resign after serving MTN for 12 years as the longest serving Executive, during this period she also served as a Director on the boards of the MTN Nigeria Foundation, MTN Benin and VisafoneAmina has made the decision to take a well-deserved break after almost 30 years of providing her leadership skills and expertise to various multinational organisations in corporate Nigeria.

“In conclusion, we would like to reassure our customers and stakeholders in the public and private sector that MTN continues to subscribe to the highest ethical standards in all its activities.We take great pains to ensure that we do business with honesty and integrity, and cherish our reputation. As such we will be considering all options (including legal) to redress this grave injustice against our brand.

“We want to take this opportunity to call on the publishers of the said article to immediately retract this falsehood and issue a public apology to MTN and Mrs Amina Oyagbola.

Sahara Reporters had reported the South African telecoms giant had fired one of its top and most valuable staffers in order to avoid scrutiny by the United States government over bribes offered to Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the report, shortly after helping to resolve a hefty fine imposed by the Nigerian government, Amina Oyagbola was so important to MTN that the company gave her two strategic positions. Her corporate elevation saw her combining leadership of the Human Resources department with the post of “Director of Strategic Communications” at MTN.

Ms. Oyagbola and her husband were instrumental in resolving MTN’s serious problem with the Nigerian Presidency culminating in a massive $5.2 billion fine imposed on the company for ignoring the Nigerian government's directive to ensure that all SIM cards were registered as a strategy to curb Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast.

SR further reported that an insider within the company and other sources in Abuja told its correspondent that, once the fine was imposed, Ms. Oyagbola recruited a close friend, Femi Lijadu, to act as a consultant for “strategic advisory services.”

In that capacity, Mr. Lijadu was a member of the team that negotiated with the Federal Government to reduce the fine to $1.7 billion. One of our sources said Ms. Oyagbola and Mr. Lijadu once worked with presidential Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari at the United Bank for Africa.

The online platform further reported, once the fine was reduced to about a third of the original sum, Ms. Oyagbola's corporate star seemed to soar. However, MTN last week told her to step down from one of her two corporate positions. A source at MTN claimed that Mrs. Oyagbola decided to resign.

However, another source within the company told Saharareporters that the once powerful corporate player was fired after MTN's bribe scandal with Mr. Kyari came to the notice of the MTN’s parent company in South Africa.

The source added that the decision to relieve Ms. Oyagbola was taken in order to avoid the consequences of a global disgrace should US authorities ask questions related to the company's reported offer of an undisclosed sum as bribe to Mr. Kyari before the senior presidential aide helped broker a deal that lowered the fine earlier imposed by the government.

The Rainbow with online reports