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$14b Transfer: Senate Withdraws Report Acquitting MTN, Slams CBN

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By Punch/Reuters

The report exonerated MTN Nigeria of accusations of illegally repatriating $14 billion has been withdrawn by the Senate.

In addition, the upper parliament has criticized the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for regulatory failures.

The report, presented to the Senate on Thursday and reviewed by Reuters, was almost immediately sent back for further work, because it did not capture possible infractions by all stakeholders, two people familiar with the matter said.

The upper house of parliament agreed last September to investigate whether Africa’s biggest telecoms company unlawfully repatriated $13.92bn from Nigeria, its most lucrative market, which generates a third of its revenue, between 2006 and 2016.

MTN, which has denied any wrongdoing, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The crux of the allegation is that MTN did not obtain certificates declaring it had invested foreign currency in Nigeria within a 24-hour deadline stipulated in a 1995 law, and so the repatriation of returns on those investments was illegal.

The Senate formed a committee to investigate the allegations against MTN and financial institutions, including the CBN, and commercial banks such as Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc.

The committee’s report gave no recommendations for punitive measures against MTN.

Instead, the report rebuked the central bank for its failure to monitor fund transfers to and from the country, calling its oversight of banks “inadequate.”

It recommended that the Senate “condemn the Central Bank of Nigeria for failing in its duty” to address problems with its monitoring of foreign exchange transfers.

The CBN’s duty is to correct and, if needed, sanction banks and their customers for any wrongdoing, which it never did, said the report, adding that the central bank never testified to the committee that there were any infractions.

By never applying sanctions, the CBN had lent credence to the banks’ argument that they were not breaking any rules by transferring foreign currency, the report said.

A CBN spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

However, the report also urged the central bank to “sanction Stanbic IBTC for improper documentation in respect of capital repatriation and loan repayments amounting to $388,195,183 and $199,440,952, respectively”.

Stanbic IBTC was not immediately available for comment.

The findings were met with dismay by some in the Senate.

Senators did not understand why the report largely condemned the CBN, while MTN and the commercial banks that transferred money overseas were barely reprimanded, said one of the people familiar with the investigation.

The document is a “poorly investigated report full of indecent holes,” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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MTN Partners Huawei to Deploy Premium Wi-Fi Service in Nigeria

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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

To improve the experience of end-users on its network, MTN Nigeria has partnered with Huawei to launch a premium Wi-Fi service in the country.

According to MTN Nigeria’s Chief Technical Officer, Mr Mohammed Rufai, the deployment of the premium Wi-Fi is geared around delivering a superior user experience with high technology.

He stated that this also became necessary due to an increase of smart home device quantiles and new types of services such as video clips and online games which demand a better home network quality.

MTN is working with Huawei on an Autonomous Driving Network project, including various innovative practices such as target architecture design, autonomous level evaluation and high-value use-cases of autonomous networks.

“Home network experience has become a vital area in improving network quality for us. In addition, we want to solve problems such as Wi-Fi interference, coordination between home network terminals and Wi-Fi coverage which occurs frequently and leads to a large proportion of user complaints,” Mr Rufai said.

 “With this, we can proactively identify and accurately locate fault points on home networks. It will help us to improve O&M efficiency and reduce customer complaints,” says Daniel Smith, a senior engineer with the MTN Group.

“In the future, MTN and Huawei will implement more innovations regarding network automation and intelligence, quickly deploy them on the live network to promptly deliver superior user experience of high tech,” he concluded.

The premium Wi-Fi can play back the historical home Wi-Fi performance in the last seven days. It demarcates faults based on speed tests by segment and diagnoses major issues in just one click to rectify problems in the cloud.

Besides, with the self-trouble shooting function on the mobile app, home broadband users are able to solve certain network problems by themselves, allowing them to manage the broadband performance much easier.

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Cyber Attacks: Africa Must Encourage Digital Skills Development—Experts

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By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Urgent steps must be taken by African leaders to encourage general digital skills to tackle cyber-attacks and crimes on the continent, some experts in the industry have advised.

Speaking at the April edition of the Information Security Society of Africa – Nigeria (ISSAN) event, the stakeholders warned that if efforts are not taken, the governments, citizens and businesses may suffer “catastrophic consequences.”

It was stressed that at the moment, Africa is struggling to match its counterparts in the other parts of the globe due to a shortage of general digital skills caused by brain drain.

At the workshop themed Addressing the Cybersecurity Skills Quagmire, the founder/CEO of Digital Jewels, Mrs Doyin Odunfa, in her presentation, lamented that the shortage of general digital skills at all levels is expected to become more critical as economies grow, noting that the supply of digitally skilled labour must also increase to meet anticipated labour market needs.

She observed that highly skilled African professionals have been emigrating from African countries to pursue lucrative cultural and socio-economic opportunities on other continents leading to a brain drain and skills gap on the continent.

Whilst proffering solutions, she recommended intentional development of digital skills at all levels, smart technology support, collaboration with the Diaspora and strategic supply to Africa and Western economies.

“These young Africans are looking for higher-paying jobs outside Africa to escape socio-economic limitations such as poverty, limited infrastructure, and rudimentary jobs.

“They look for enabling environments in developed countries that provide rewarding businesses and obtain lucrative jobs, matching skilled individuals’ aspirations and expected socio-economic recompense.

“Many highly talented African students that obtain opportunities and scholarships of training abroad do not return home after completing studies,” Mrs Odunfa stated.

In his welcome address, the president of ISSAN, Mr David Isiavwe, said the brain drain in Africa as well as the digital skills shortage currently being experienced around the world calls for concern.

According to him, “The cyber threat landscape is still evolving. The cybersecurity space keeps getting very busy by the day. We have seen how daring cybercriminals can be, targeting both national assets and highly reputable firms. Even individuals are not left out.

“Consequently, it becomes imperative that organizations never relent in upholding and reinforcing information security best practices.”

The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Stanbic IBTC, Abumere Igboa; CISO of Heritage Bank, Eduje Ighoakpo; CISO of First Bank, Harrison Nnaji; CISO of Standard Chartered Bank, Oghenefovie Oyawari and the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Digital Jewels, Tokunbo Taiwo, were the other speakers at the gathering.

ISSAN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace. It is significantly involved in ensuring the security of banking systems and applications, ATMs, e-government systems, and the entire cyberspace in Nigeria.

The group also seeks to achieve its objectives through awareness heightening measures including the promotion of appropriate legislation and best practices.

Membership cuts across both public and private sectors of the economy including Banks, Telecommunications Operators, Government parastatals, switching companies, IT and IT security consultancies, Legal Practitioners with a keen interest in cyber-related matters, and regulators.

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Interswitch Receives Fresh Funds from LeapFrog, Tana

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By Adedapo Adesanya

LeapFrog Investments (LeapFrog) and Tana Africa Capital (Tana) have invested in Interswitch, one of Africa’s technology-driven companies focused on the digitisation of payments.

In a joint statement from both companies, the exact amount was not disclosed, but it was stated that the investment will assist in supporting the company’s drive to advance the payment ecosystem across the continent.

A portion of the investment has been acquired from existing shareholders, with Ignite Holdco Limited, made up of Helios Investment Partners and TA Associates, remaining the largest shareholder in the business following the transaction.

Interswitch Group CEO, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, in a statement, said the company was “excited to welcome LeapFrog and Tana on board, as we continue our work to advance the future of the African payments landscape.”

This will further advance its offerings after it launched some new products in March.

The services unveiled include an enhanced Biometrics feature for Point of Sale (PoS) terminals & Automated Teller Machines (ATMs); Tokenization, and Card Fusion, with the services addressing digital payment fraud, problems with card issuance and portfolio management.

Interswitch, in collaboration with SterlingPRO, designed the Biometrics on Point of Sale (PoS) and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) to protect customers against digital payment fraud and to avail them faster and more convenient ways to validate payments. The solution utilizes physiological features unique to everyone such as fingerprints, voice, and facial features to verify payment transactions.

Tokenization on the other hand replaces sensitive data such as the 16-digit account information with a unique digital identifier known as a token. Tokenization will enable merchants to fast-track and collect payment seamlessly, enabling customers to check out faster in-store, in-app and online.

In addition, Card Fusion is a web-based instant card issuance platform that enables banks to conclude new card production requests and issue cards within a very short time, thus enhancing their customers’ experience while customers get to personalize their cards instantly.

Interswitch is one of Africa’s largest electronic payments and infrastructure companies and services providing online banking system offerings in areas like point-of-sale terminals, online consumer payment platforms, Quickteller, and Verve, the biggest domestic debit card scheme in Africa, issuing over 35 million active cards since launch.

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