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Tech investor, Victor Asemota, debunks Tinubu’s claim of bringing ECONET to Nigeria

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Speaking at the just concluded screening of presidential aspirants of the All Progressive Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and party founder, claims to have played a role in building the telecoms industry in Nigeria by bringing Econet Wireless (now Airtel) to Nigeria.

However, tech investor, Victor Asemota has moved to debunk Tinubu’s claim, stating that Lagos State was only involved in its founding through the acquisition of secondary shares after much deliberations had taken place.

According to Asemota Tinubu didn’t even commit to Cybertel (Econet’s founding trading name in Nigeria) initially. until after Delta State, Oceanic and David Edevbie did the major work.

Highlighting his contribution to the development of the telecoms industry, Bola Ahmed Tinubu said “There are three highways in the development of a nation. If you have gas or supplying diesel, electricity transmission is also a highway and communication.

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“I could remember that I brought Eron to this nation. Telecommunication is now a success today in Nigeria. I brought Econet. I helped them; they now want to adopt 5G; we started it. 

“Nigeria is rich. The essence of our livelihood must be placed on short-term and medium-term values. They must produce values for us,”

Disagreeing with Tinubu’s claim, Victor Asemota, who also worked at Econet during its early days gave his account of how Econet Wireless came into Nigeria.

He said, “My uncle held a party for Tony Anenih Jr. after his wedding in 2000 in Benin City.

“Many of the new state governors were in town and came for the party. He got five of them into his bedroom and pitched a company called ‘CyberTel’, which was supposed to bid for a GSM license 

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“Only Delta State was very keen on it. The others told us that they would get back. Cybertel merged into the consortium called First Independent Networks Limited, which was started by Bolaji Balogun and his team at City Securities Limited. It was a harrowing period”.

He added that he had to travel to Delta and Akwa Ibom to ensure the commitment of the state as FINL was supposed to hold 60% of the license holding company, and 40% went to the foreign partner.

We later selected a small company from Zimbabwe called Econet because we felt it was easier,” he said.

 

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He also revealed that “Econet was supposed to bring 40% of the license money and the technical know-how. We had the equity agreement as a shareholder, and technical services agreement as operator of the license. That 40% never came. It was excuse after excuse. We finally had to go back to the states. 

“The initial structure we had proposed was for the licensed entity, Econet Wireless Nigeria (EWN) owned by FINL and the technical partner to own 60% of the operating entity Econet Wireless Mobile (EWM) and the remaining 40% coming into that entity from states like Delta and AKSG.”

Asemota revealed that when the 40% from the operator wasn’t coming and other shareholders were leveraged to the hilt, state governments were allowed in to buy secondaries from existing shareholders who had covered the initial $285m license fee they didn’t bargain for, which caused the Shareholders approached states.

 

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He said OANDO was also a shareholder, stating that Wale Tinubu (Oando founder) got Lagos State to buy their secondaries and come in. “That was the extent of the Lagos State involvement in the deal. His relative was the state governor, and it made it easier for OANDO to convince them. Tinubu didn’t even commit to Cybertel initially. Delta State and Oceanic saved ECONET. David Edevbie saved us all,” he said.

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‘My kind of politics is different’ Otunba Daniel speaks on Senate President Akpabio’s candidacy

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Otunba Engr. Olugbenga Daniel, former Governor of Ogun State and current Senator has categorically denied allegations that he did not support Senator Godswill Akpabio’s candidacy for the Senate Presidency in June last year.

Addressing these claims, Daniel described them as baseless fabrications typical of the political landscape.

During an interview, Daniel clarified his longstanding and cordial relationship with Akpabio, stating that he had given his full support to Akpabio’s bid for Senate leadership.

“Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senate President, is somebody that I have known and have had a first-class relationship with for decades. In fact, he was here in my house and we had discussed, and of course, he had 100% of my support,” he explained.

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Daniel expressed disappointment over the misleading narratives and unfounded accusations that have become a part of political maneuvering in Nigeria.

He emphasized that his political approach is inclusive and that he maintains relationships with various political figures regardless of factional lines.

“People think that, oh, because you are supporting somebody, you cannot talk to somebody else. I don’t think that’s the way it should be,” he noted.

Highlighting his connections with other contenders for the Senate Presidency, Daniel mentioned his affiliations with Orji Kalu and Senator Abdulaziz Yari, both of whom he has known through various political and professional capacities.

“I think the mistake people are making is that my own politics is a bit different and I don’t grandstand maybe because I’ve seen it all. People think that, oh, because you are supporting somebody, you cannot talk to somebody else. I don’t think that’s the way it should be.

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“All the people who wanted to be Senate president were my colleagues in a way. Some of them were governors. Orji Kalu was governor and an ally. I think between 2007 and 2011, we sat at the cabinet together. The other main contestant Senator Abdulaziz Yari from Zamfara, was at some point a Governor. I happened to be the Deputy Chairman of the former Governor’s Forum.”

The former governor of Ogun State pointed out the flawed logic behind the allegations, noting that his interactions with other candidates were misinterpreted.

“When people like that come looking for me, people may say, ah, we saw this man going there, therefore… They don’t even know whether what I was telling them was to support Akpabio. So it is part of the bad politics that our people play. There was absolutely nothing like that,” he remarked.

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Otunba Gbenga Daniel advocates for strategic subsidies and tax reforms to revitalize Nigeria’s economy

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Former Governor of Ogun State and current Senator, Otunba Engr. Olugbenga Daniel has underscored the necessity for government subsidies in the power sector following the removal of petrol subsidies.

He proposed that effective management and strategic support are essential to stimulate economic growth and enhance Nigeria’s infrastructure.

Daniel emphasized the importance of government involvement in supporting public goods, drawing comparisons to the Chinese model of economic diplomacy.

He explained that many Chinese companies, which have made significant inroads into African markets, benefit from substantial government ownership and support. This model, Daniel suggested, could offer valuable lessons for Nigeria as it seeks to revitalize its power sector and the broader economy.

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“Let’s look at the Chinese model. When the Chinese finally decided to open up and all these companies flooded Africa, what many people don’t know is that even those companies that claimed to be privately owned, there is virtually none of them that is not the government that has majority shares. They let them do the business but the government is the owner of majority shares. I’m not so sure anyone is running without the government having about 51% shares. So, they opened up but it is guided by economic diplomacy and they are there to help those companies. That is why it’s not difficult for many of those companies to enter into a market that otherwise belonged to Western Europe and the US because of that support,” he said.

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Reflecting on his tenure as Governor, Daniel reiterated his belief that while the government should not run businesses, it has a critical role in facilitating and supporting private enterprise.

“In fact, what I said when I was Governor was that yes, the government has no business in business, but the government has a responsibility to support business because, if you ask government parastatals and agencies to run businesses, they just don’t know how to run them. So they have no business in running business, but government has a responsibility to support and facilitate business.”

He highlighted the multiple tax burdens faced by Nigerian companies, which operate in challenging environments with inadequate power, security, and infrastructure.

The former governor noted that companies like Nestlé and Nigerian Breweries, which have historically been profitable, are now declaring losses. In contrast, sectors like banking and telecommunications, which do not engage in traditional production, continue to thrive. This discrepancy, according to him, calls for a more supportive environment for productive industries.

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“Companies are operating in a very, very hostile environment: no power, no security. So an average company must organize its own power, its own security, its own waterworks, its own access roads in some instances. So it’s already quite a hostile location for them to operate. Then, when you now think that this is a company and you begin to tax them, indiscriminately, it’s a disincentive.

“Without any doubt, we know the sectors that are making money are not many in this country, we know them. And they are not really productive sectors. I can explain this to you. What is the production in the banking system? So they are making money. What’s the production in telecoms? It is the air that transmits and as the air is transmitting, they are charging. So they are making money. They use artificial intelligence and stuff like that. Proprietary right is what we are paying for. No production because production is the most difficult thing to do. But there is virtually no company in production in Nigeria today that is making money.”

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Daniel commended the current administration’s efforts to harmonize the tax regime, which he believes will provide much-needed relief to the private sector.

Expressing optimism about Nigeria’s future, the senator representing Ogun East at the national assembly voiced his confidence in President Bola Tinubu’s administration and his extensive experience in both the private and public sectors, suggesting that this unique background equips him to navigate the complexities of Nigeria’s economic landscape effectively.

“But the summary is that we have in this administration somebody who knows where the shoe pinches, somebody who has a background of the private sector and experience in the public sector, and somebody who also has gone through the mills and the grills.

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“Late Tai Solarin said ‘may your road be rough’ I think that when you look at the trajectory of our president, he has gone through everything. So he knows what to do, and when you have somebody like that at the helm of affairs, he cannot afford to fail and I don’t see how he’s going to fail.

“So I have absolute confidence that this administration will continue to turn around the fortunes of our country and I know that at the end of the day, our country will be better for it,” he said.

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DSS, police, others take over C’River Assembly

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Officials of the Department of the State Services, the Dragon Squad, and personnel of the Nigeria Police Force have taken over the complex of the Cross River State Assembly.

This was following the impeachment of the Assembly speaker, Elvert Anyambem.

Theheute learnt that Ayambem was impeached over alleged gross misconduct and financial misappropriation.

The move to remove the speaker has been on for some months as members have been expressing displeasure with his conduct and operations of the assembly.

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As of Tuesday, over 20 members had signed up for his impeachment, and the motion for his removal was moved on the floor of the House by the member representing Calabar South 1, Effiong Ekarika, and seconded by Charles Omang.

After impeaching him, the mace was taken away by the members.

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