FG Moves to Seize Globacom Shares


August 28, 2006/thisday



Following the crackdown on Globacom Nigeria Limited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the anti-corruption body may have recommended to the Federal Government the seizure of 36% shares in the telecoms company.

THISDAY checks reveal that the 36% shares in question are made up of 24% which the EFCC alleges is owned by former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, through his son, Mohammed and the rest 12.5% is alleged also to be owned by Vice President Atiku Abubakar through a proxy in Enugu.

But both Atiku Abubakar and Babangida have denied ever owning these shares which have been the source of intense investigation and crackdown on Globacom by  EFCC.

At the same time, Globacom officials have also  vehemently denied that the shares belong to Babangida and Atiku  respectively.

According to one Globacom official, “we recently paid dividend on Globacom but nothing was paid to the purported shareholders of either Babangida or Atiku. Dividend payment is a test of shareholding and if we didn’t pay any of them dividend, how can they claim they own shares in Globacom.”

THISDAY gathered at the weekend that the thinking of the EFCC is that since nobody has come up to say he or she owns the shares, then it is only logical and reasonable that the 36% shares be forfeited to the Federal Govern-ment.

This latest move by the commission is coming on the heels of recent close-up on the operations of Globacom.

Only a few weeks ago, the Chairman of Globacom, Otunba Mike Adenuga, was arrested by EFCC operatives  in his residence in Lagos in a target of Atiku and Babangida.

Also, Mohammed, Baban-gida’s first son, was also arrested and detained. But checks show that if confirmed, the latest move by the EFCC may likely face some hurdles.

One, informed sources maintain that since Nigeria is currently in a democracy where private ownership of property is guaranteed under the constitution and not under a military regime, it may require legislation or an order of a court of competent jurisdiction  before the Federal Government can take possession of the 36% shares.

Two, that there can only be a court order from a court of competent jurisdiction based on a prima facia case if the company in question is owing the Federal Government and the court order is given in view of such indebtedness.

If the 36% is then acquired, what would the Federal Government do with it as it cannot keep it in the face of the current privatisation programme; it would have to sell or privatise it. So in which case, it can only be selling or privatising to pay for debts and not just in pursuit of errant shareholders.

Three, experts told THISDAY that a seizure of 36% shares in Globacom could send very dangerous signals to the international investment community which could negatively affect investment inflow into Nigeria.

Lastly, the move could be seen as a throw-back to the era of late Gen Sani Abacha regime which attempted to acquire golden shares in the United Bank for Africa (UBA).

THISDAY investigations reveal that conscious of these hurdles, EFCC would have to prove that the 36% shares may have been acquired with  stolen public funds and that the commission was not out for political vendetta.

Sources close to the EFCC say the commission may be gathering strong evidence against Atiku and Babangida and this may be one of the steps to checkmate them.

Justifying Adenuga’s arrest at that time, EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, in his official reaction  said there was nothing strange about the arrest of the chairman of Globacom, stressing that the Commission could invite anybody for questioning. He also said the commission was yet to find anything at that time against Adenuga. \"Why are you so particular about Mike Adenuga? There are one hundred and one people who are being investigated daily in Nigeria. Go today and see who we have taken. He is not the latest. What is special about him? Is he not a Nigerian?”

On why Adenuga was arrested at that time, Ribadu  had maintained that the result of the investigations would be made public later.

He added: \"The result of our investigation, normally we make it public. At the appropriate time, we will come out with whatever findings that our investigation will reveal. Give us time and I am sure Nigerians will know everything. We will never do anything in hiding. At the end of the day, Nigerians will know.”

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