The giant telecommunication company MTN has been in the news lately. Of course it is good for a corporate organization to be in the news, but it must be for good reasons. A few days ago, MTN was on National news for illegal money transfer. The CBN accused MTN of transferring foreign exchange illegally out of the Country and asked it to refund the sum of 8.1  billion dollars it allegedly transferred. When I first heard this news of illegal transfer, I shuddered. How did this happen? Was it possible that they bought this huge sum of forex from the Mallam or the unlicensed Bureau De Change? Later I heard the CBN sanctioning some banks for aiding MTN to transfer the money illegally. Then my worry got worse.
How come that banks which are licensed to deal in Foreign Exchange are being accused of aiding illegal transfer? Is this a case of illegal transfer of money or a case of the transfer of illegal money? I think that one of these or both of them sound like criminal offence. And if so, does CBN have the power to accuse, prosecute and exact punishment? One has always had this impression that foreign exchange transfers go through a process of authorization. It Looks like that the banks penalized by CBN to pay fines of 5.87 Billion Naira - Standard Chartered, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank, and Diamond did not obtain appropriate authorizations from CBN before the transfers were made. Is it possible that these four  otherwise respectable banks would deliberately act against the norm or against the law? And these alleged infractions occurred between 2007-2015. How come it took this long to find out, whereas Banks make monthly returns to CBN? Troubling questions.
While we were still trying to figure out answers to these bewildering posers, another bad news concerning MTN broke out last week. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation charged MTN with failing to pay appropriate taxes, duties and levies. They were asked to pay tax arrears worth $2 billion. Again I shuddered. MTN again? What is going on here? Tax evasion over 10 years? Where is the FIRS in all this? When did this tax dispute start? and how come it is blowing out in the public a few days after the illegal money transfer charge? Is this a mere coincidence or is it a fatal corporate governance failure in MTN or is there a plot to demonize and destroy MTN in Nigeria? Or indeed is it a combination of all of the above?
I recollect that in 2015/2016, MTN almost went into liquidation when the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) imposed fines of $5.2 billion (N1.04T) for failing to comply with the directive to deactivate telephone numbers sold to customers without registering the customers (unregistered or pre-registered SIM cards). The company's income, stock prices, shareholders's funds and corporate image took terrible hits then. And now similar or worse damages may happen. Why is MTN subjecting or allowing itself to be subjected to this kind of ordeal? I can never tell and I have a sneaky feeling that there is more to all these than what the headlines suggest. Is there a political or diplomatic angle to these? Your guess is as good as mine.

But whatever may be the undertones or ulterior motives in these brawls, one thing is certain, MTN has some culpability. I have often worried about MTN and the way it carried on with its business since it came into this country with a bang. True MTN takes a big portion of the bragging rights for liberating Nigeria from the tyranny of NITEL and ushering Nigerians to the telecommunications age. Along with its competitors it has created jobs for several young Nigerians including service suppliers and recharge card sellers. But MTN's dealing with its trade partners or distributors has continued to baffle me. For long ,it looked like they never wanted any trade partner or distributor to succeed. They were often erratic in the way they changed trade policies and terms. It was as if they got irritated if they saw their distributors make profit! There was hardly any negotiations and their policies were often "take or leave it". In the process they have driven many distributors out of business, many with bitterness in their hearts. Less than 5% of the distributors who started with them in 2001 are still trading with them today.  Those who currently run the MTN business connect franchises are barely able to scratch out any margins as MTN gives them impossible targets and terms with little headroom. 
I presume that part of the problems of MTN is poor corporate governance. Any business that behaves as if it wants to maximize profit, without keeping a damn on what is happening to other stakeholders - suppliers, distributors, employees, customers, regulators, etc, is essentially courting trouble. Recently, MTN and some of their competitors were picketed by labour leaders for their unfriendly labour policies. I feel extremely sad when MTN and companies like them, such as Banks make humongous profits, and yet are so wicked that they hire University graduates as ad-hoc staff or temporary staff (often through third parties), drive them so hard with neck-breaking schedules or targets and then pay them twenty five thousand Naira (N 25,000)as monthly stipend. Therefore when such companies run into the kind of problems that MTN and some of the banks seem to repeatedly run into, you wonder if it is nemesis that is catching up. May be not, but the failure of corporate governance is evident.
Nevertheless I will end up by appealing to our regulatory agencies to take it easy with investors and such foreign owned companies like MTN, especially when the punishment for infractions look out of proportion to the infraction. Investors generally have herd mentality and when they feel persecuted as the MTN matter looks, they first become hesitant, and when the negative pressure is sustained, they flee. With our precarious economic growth status and the unrelenting unemployment, we must err on the side of caution. Such issues as tax dispute need not be held in the public glare. I will also advice MTN to improve its corporate governance practices. Corporate Social responsibility is good but it can not replace good corporate governance nor can it sufficiently compensate for poor corporate governance. Luckily there is a corporate governance conference organized by the Association of Corporate governance professionals of Nigeria (ACGPN) going on this week in Abuja. I fully recommend that MTN and other corporate organizations attend this conference and begin to internalize and practice good corporate governance principles as a hedge to these recurring corporate embarrassments. 

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR


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This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. For convenience, they are grouped into the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. And that includes politicians, civil servants, public servants, professionals and non professionals of all cadres and categories; from cleaners,security men and permanent secretaries to ministers; from legislative aids to the House Speaker and Senate President; from the court bailiff to the Policeman, to the Registrar and to the Supreme Court Judge; from the gatemen to the Director Generals of Parastatals and Agencies, they are all constituent parts of the government, agents of the State. And that's why they are paid from the tax payers money.Every action, each one of them takes or omits to take reflects on the effectiveness or in effectiveness of the government they are part of. But it looks to me that this realization does not exist sufficiently. Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR