Founder and Executive Chairman of the first GSM operator in Nigeria, Econet Wireless, Strive Masiyiwa, has revealed that convicted former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, demanded that $4.5m be paid to him in his personal capacity.
Besides, he insisted that the telecommunications firm (Econet) was voted out by the Nigerian shareholders, sequel to his refusal to effect payment of $9m in bribes to senior politicians.
Making this revelation in a series of articles he posted on Facebook with the title, ”˜It is time to play by a different (ethical) set of rules’, the Econet founder who has been named by the CNN as one of the 50 most-influential business leaders in the world, noted that Econet wireless participated in the auction process announced by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for three national mobile licences.
According to Masiyiwa, “Econet Wireless met the requirements because of its experience in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Our shareholders were all Nigerian, mostly institutional investors, including leading banks and two state governments, Lagos State and Delta State. The licence cost us $285m and was the most expensive licence ever issued in Africa at the time.
“We were one of the winning bidders and they gave us just six months to set up business and get our network operating.
“Then came the fateful day when I was told that our company must pay a total of $9m in bribes to senior politicians (in state governments) who had facilitated the raising of the money to pay for the licence.”
The founder added that he bluntly refused to authorise the illegal payments, just as he alleged that former governor of Delta state, Ibori demanding that $4.5m be paid to him in his personal capacity.
He added that, “When he heard that I was refusing to approve payment, he issued an ultimatum: ”˜Pay or I will chase you and your people out of the country’.
“The shareholders met and voted Econet Wireless Nigeria out of management. They cancelled our management contract. James Ibori and his colleagues personally attended the meeting to remove us.
“They invited a big international operator to replace us as a technical partner and operator. They changed the name of the company from Econet to V-Mobile.”