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August 02
13:32 2017



The recent media onslaught against the former Chairman of Skye Bank, Dr. Tunde Ayeni is targeted at frustrating the acquisition of Nitel and to ensure it is deprived of needed funds to execute its work plan.

Yes, at the moment, Ayeni is battling tooth and nail to save his most audacious investment, Ntel, from powerful forces decidedly hell-bent on taking over the telecoms company.

A consortium run by Ayeni, NATCOM Telecommunications, bought over the moribund national telecoms carrier, NITEL, and its mobile subsidiary, MTEL, from the federal government in 2014 and birthed Ntel. Within a year of operations, NTEL has emerged a force in the telecommunications sector, introducing the most sophisticated 4G service to Nigerians while delivering superfast call connect times, crystal clear voice-over-LTE and high speed internet access. And thus began his problems.

In the last one week, Ayeni has come under a barrage of media onslaught bordering on his stewardship at SKYE Bank essentially due to the loan he secured to finance the revival of NITEL. Prior to the takeoff of the Global System of Mobile Communications, GSM, in Nigeria in 2001, the services of the national telecommunications carrier had been spasmodic at best. In spite of successive administration’s efforts to revive it, nothing worked, thus consigning NITEL to the dustbin or so, until NATCOM came through in 2014.

While he has yet to make an official statement concerning the allegations by SKYE bank, sources close to the very influential businessman say the recent media campaign is geared towards retrieving the former national telecom company from Ayeni’s Natcom.

According to a retired director in the old Ministry of Communications Technology which oversaw the bid for NITEL, “It is quite sad how in Nigeria we dig our own grave and yet, cry that we are not making progress. I just saw an online medium publish some grave allegations about Tunde Ayeni and his stewardship in Skye Bank. While I do agree that office holders should be accountable for their actions, I wonder what the real intent of Skye Bank or whoever is behind that story is.

Having petitioned the presidency, why hastily bring the same allegations to the media?” He wondered whether the loan was unilaterally obtained in such a big bank or it went through due process. “Now, who approved the loan? If the bank did not find the business proposal worthwhile, why approve the loan in the first place? Are these alleged financial losses running into almost N300bn as stated by the bank possibly have been accumulated in just over two years of Ayeni’s chairmanship because he only became chairman in 2013?

How much was the total deposits base of the bank over the two plus years that one chairman would incur such expenses in so short a time? Why single out Ayeni out of three chairmen when Alhaji Musiliu Smith and Mrs (Moronkeji) Onasanya are still alive?”

Obviously, the source also said, “The intent of this is either to conduct a media trial and convict the person (given Nigerian’s general phobia of not wanting to be in the press), or to pre-empt the President and blackmail him to act in a particular manner. Or better still, it may be to achieve a sinister motive of discrediting the man in the eyes of potential partners so as to make him a commercial outcast and ultimately overrun his business. Otherwise, how do you explain this action?

Indeed, the same medium which reported Ayeni’s alleged malfeasance followed up with a report that in the same week, he made a payment of USD10m and also makes a quarterly payment of USD4.5m to the bank towards repayment of the facilities for the Ibadan and Yola discos in line with the restructuring agreement with the consortium of lenders. The Capital independently gathered that Ayeni had been discussing with a potential investor for the injection of USD200m into Ntel and had availed the bank with a term sheet for the facility.

Having taken this course, and knowing the sensitivity of foreign investors to allegations of this nature, our source asked, “Is the bank truly only interested in recovering their loans from Ayeni or they are more interested in hijacking Ntel from him?”


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